Tuilagi could join Ashton on wing as Lancaster wields axe


Stuart Lancaster has not been afraid to wield the axe since succeeding Martin Johnson as England boss, but he has stopped well short of using a chainsaw. Until last night.

When the coach named a 24-man squad, one more than strictly required, for the contest with South Africa at Twickenham on Saturday, he left plenty of dead wood on the ground.

Three players who started against Australia last weekend – the Gloucester wing Charlie Sharples, the Exeter flanker Tom Johnson and the Leicester No 8 Thomas Waldrom – were dropped and released back to their clubs for this weekend's resumption of Premiership activity. Joe Marler, the Harlequins prop, would have joined them had he not already broken down with damaged knee ligaments.

As expected, two London Irish players recently recovered from injury – the loose-head prop Alex Corbisiero and the outside back Jonathan Joseph – survived the cull, and there is every chance that both will start against the Springboks. The other "newcomers" retained in camp were the Saracens lock Mouritz Botha, the Wasps back-rower James Haskell and the Gloucester No 8 Ben Morgan. Botha is the extra man, brought in as second-row cover for the bruised and battered Geoff Parling.

Joseph's position is intriguing: with only one specialist wing, Chris Ashton of Saracens, left in the party, there is a possibility that he will wear the No 11 shirt. The other contenders for that position are the Leicester centre Manu Tuilagi, who looks more like a wing every time he plays in midfield, and the Harlequins full-back Mike Brown. Many good judges would like to see Joseph play in his club position of outside centre, alongside the incumbent No 12 Brad Barritt, with Tuilagi deployed in the wider position.

Obliged to send "excess baggage" personnel back to their clubs under the terms of the agreement between the Rugby Football Union and the Premiership fraternity, Lancaster was bound to give something away in advance of tomorrow's team announcement. Nevertheless, he has been clever in playing this set of cards close to his chest. The precise make-up of the back division remains a puzzle and while Parling is a definite starter if fit, the race for the second locking roles is a close-run thing between the experienced Tom Palmer and the exciting youngster Joe Launchbury.

The Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth is free to face England after being cleared of a charge of gouging the Scotland outside-half Greig Laidlaw during last Saturday's win at Murrayfield.

Meanwhile, the Wales coach, Warren Gatland, back in Red Dragon mode after spending the last few weeks on British and Irish Lions business, has reacted to his side's demoralising defeat by Samoa by making five changes for the visit of the All Blacks this weekend.

Sam Warburton returns to lead the side from the open-side flank and he will be joined up front by the hooker Matthew Rees and the France-based lock Luke Charteris, who was one of the stand-out performers at last year's World Cup. Outside the scrum, there will be starts for Rhys Priestland at outside-half and Jonathan Davies at centre.


Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific