Six Nations call-ups for Burns and Youngs while Flood cleared to play

Evolution not further revolution in Lancaster's England as citing for outside-half not upheld

Stuart Lancaster will not strip the England squad bare today by making a full team's worth of changes to the elite roster, as he did in his first act as national coach a year ago. It is a sure sign of the progress made under the Cumbrian's stewardship, which has been an object lesson in quiet assurance, that he can happily approach the forthcoming Six Nations jamboree with a familiar party, most of whom are young enough to have legitimate designs on the home-town World Cup in 2015.

There will be tinkerings, though. The formal promotions of three recently-capped players – the Gloucester outside-half Freddie Burns, the Leicester hooker Tom Youngs and the Wasps lock Joe Launchbury – are done deals, and with current front-row replacement regulations allowing for a fifth prop, the ancient-looking Saracens youngster Mako Vunipola has every chance of staying involved following a promising contribution in the autumn internationals.

Lancaster received welcome news last night when Toby Flood, his senior outside-half, was cleared of inflicting an illegal "tip-tackle" on his opposite number Andy Goode while helping Leicester to a narrow win at Worcester last Friday. The citing, made by match commissioner Shaun Gallagher, was not upheld by a Rugby Football Union disciplinary panel, so Flood is available for the Tigers' big Heineken Cup match with Ospreys this weekend.

Other adjustments to the Six Nations' squad, by no means out of the question, will be more delicate. Lancaster is known to like the look of a second Gloucester midfielder in Billy Twelvetrees, who could conceivably turn out to be the attacking inside-centre England have craved since the retirement of Will Greenwood the best part of a decade ago. But if, as seems certain, the coach adds Burns to his existing outside-half resources, he might have to jettison both Anthony Allen of Leicester and Jordan Turner-Hall of Harlequins to create space for the new boy. Either that, or leave himself short of bodies in the back three.

And the back three is an issue. Four members of the squad Lancaster named last summer – Mike Brown, Ben Foden, Alex Goode and Chris Ashton – are selections of the no-brainer variety, but three of them are full-backs and there is no specialist left wing in sight. As left wing is a very different position from right wing in technical terms, as Charlie Sharples of Gloucester would no doubt confirm following appearances in both roles during the autumn, the England management have some thinking to do.

There has been plenty of support for the unfeasibly rapid Christian Wade of Wasps just lately, but like Ashton and Sharples, he is a right wing by instinct. Lancaster should stick with Sharples on the basis that he is as quick as most and deserves a chance to re-state his case after spending a difficult afternoon out of position against the Wallabies. Alternatively, he could turn to the experienced David Strettle of Saracens, who at least feels at home in the No 11 shirt.

Up front, Launchbury's super-fast rise to prominence appears to leave another Sarries man, the naturalised South African workhorse Mouritz Botha, contesting a second-row position with Tom Palmer, who partners the newcomer at Wasps. Palmer is no spring chicken and has spent much of his career being written off by all and sundry. He is, however, a specialist middle jumper who knows what it is to run a line-out. Geoff Parling may be the kingpin in that department these days, but you can't have too much of a good thing.

Which leaves the phalanx of back-rowers, seven strong as things stand and unlikely to change dramatically. The Leicester flanker Tom Croft, just back from long-term injury, is confidently expected to hold his place, even though he is unlikely to be considered for Six Nations selection until the back end of the tournament. This puts a heap of pressure on the ever-combative Phil Dowson of Northampton, who may lose out to the bigger, marginally more versatile James Haskell of Wasps. Haskell has performed the demanding open-side role at Test level – indeed, he did it with some success at the last World Cup – and England are in obvious need of back-up to Chris Robshaw in the breakaway department.

If Lancaster was still in 2012 mode, he would probably have plumped for the Worcester youngster Matt Kvesic, whom he has frequently mentioned in dispatches. Kvesic's performance in last week's Premiership match with Leicester was exceptional – ask Croft and Thomas Waldrom, the red-rose forwards who found themselves on the wrong end of it – and while he is a rank outside for this selection, a place on the summer tour of Argentina might be his for the taking.

Squad issues: Lancaster's options

Hot favourites to join squad

Freddie Burns (Gloucester)

His Test career is just 17 minutes old, but his contribution against New Zealand last month were hugely promising. The most exciting No 10 around.

Tom Youngs (Leicester)

Wonky line-out throwing aside, the hooker made the most of the opportunity created by Dylan Hartley's injury. A welcome newcomer in a problem position.

Joe Launchbury (Wasps)

Capped during the autumn, he is already being talked of as a Lions tourist this summer. One of the England coaching team's most inspired investments.

Could be called up

Christian Wade (Wasps)

A tourist in South Africa last summer, the diminutive speedster has the happy knack of scoring tries that border on the unscoreable. Defensively flakey, however.

Billy Twelvetrees (Gloucester)

An inside centre with a full skill-set, he trained with England during the autumn and is ready to take things to the next level.

Matt Kvesic (Worcester)

One of those players coaches talk about between themselves. Given England's reluctance to pick Steffon Armitage from abroad, the breakaway could emerge very quickly.

News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Sport
Jonathan de Guzman of the Netherlands and Willian of Brazil compete for the ball
world cup 2014LIVE BLOG: Hosts Brazil take on the Netherlands in third-place play-off
News
Tommy Ramone performing at The Old Waldorf Nightclub in 1978 in San Francisco, California.
peopleDrummer Tommy was last surviving member of seminal band
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Several male celebrities have confessed to being on a diet, including, from left to right, Hugh Grant, Benedict Cumberbatch and Ryan Reynolds
life...and the weight loss industry is rubbing its hands in glee
Voices
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
arts + entsReview: Wembley Stadium ***
Sport
Joe Root and James Anderson celebrate their record-beaking partnership
cricketEngland's last-wicket stand against India rewrites the history books
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice