Six Nations 2015: England bring in Henry Slade after Brad Barritt ruled out by injury

Stuart Lancaster is not about to throw the 21-year-old Slade straight into his starting line-up

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The Independent Online

England will have to do without Brad Barritt’s defensive reliability for the rest of the Six Nations, thanks to the Saracens centre’s latest orthopaedic breakdown, but Henry Slade of Exeter, the most exciting midfield talent to emerge from the Premiership in some considerable time, is fast closing in on the Test debut some believe is already overdue.

Slade was called into the red-rose training camp yesterday as a result of yet another Barritt medical bulletin, which confirmed that the South African-born human barricade suffered a nasty ankle strain during his club’s league victory at Wasps on Sunday and would not be available for either of his adopted country’s remaining Six Nations fixtures – against Scotland at Twickenham on Saturday, and France, also in London, in 11 days’ time.

Stuart Lancaster, the head coach, is not about to throw the 21-year-old Slade straight into his starting line-up: the Bath players George Ford and Jonathan Joseph will begin Saturday evening’s Calcutta Cup contest at outside-half and outside-centre respectively, and the uncapped Devonian has spent too little time in the troublesome inside-centre position to justify an immediate call-up there. But the age of Slade is approaching, all the same.

“The more I see of him, the more I think he has fantastic potential,” Lancaster said of the goal-kicker. “I’d like to look at him in the inside-centre role, so it’s a question of him getting consistent exposure in the Premiership, but he has the chance to impress in training over the next couple of days. And when this Six Nations is over and we go into World Cup camp on 21 June, we’ll have from then until the end of August to make a final decision on our squad for the tournament. I’m fairly confident he’ll be there or thereabouts for that.”

 

Tom Croft, the Lions Test flanker from Leicester, is also out of the Six Nations reckoning after suffering a dislocated shoulder at Newcastle on Sunday, as is the Bath prop Henry Thomas, who picked up a slightly less alarming injury in the same part of the body during his club’s victory over Sale on Friday night.

However, the first-choice full-back, Mike Brown of Harlequins, and the Newcastle tight-head specialist Kieran Brookes are expected to be fit for the Scotland date after missing the defeat in Ireland. Lancaster also has high hopes Northampton’s Luther Burrell will be cleared to play after recovering from a calf strain.

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