Lancaster relishing competition

Stuart Lancaster is happy with England's strength in depth

Stuart Lancaster is happy with England's strength in depth

First published in National Sport News © by

England boss Stuart Lancaster is relishing the competition for places which will continue to develop among his 32-strong elite and Saxons squads.

Lancaster says he faced "some tough decisions" before finalising his top 64 players to work with for the next six months.

"The great thing is that we have got competition across the board and strength in depth developing in many positions with players who will be around for the next few years," he said.

"There are also some exciting players just on the cusp of the squads such as Tom Homer, Charlie Matthews, Tom Heathcote and Elliot Daly, who we are really looking forward to seeing develop in the next 12 months and beyond."

Notable absentees from the senior group are Saracens wing David Strettle and Wasps flanker James Haskell, who were both part of last month's three-Test South Africa tour but have to settle for Saxons spots.

There are call-ups, though, for Leicester trio Anthony Allen, Geoff Parling and Thomas Waldrom, Harlequins scrum-half Danny Care, Saracens back Alex Goode, London Irish centre Jonathan Joseph and Exeter flanker Tom Johnson.

Six players who did not tour South Africa because of injury are all back - Gloucester wing Charlie Sharples, Northampton forwards Courtney Lawes and Tom Wood, Saracens prop Matt Stevens, Bath hooker Rob Webber and Leicester flanker Tom Croft.

"We spent a long time deciding on these 64, and there were some tough decisions to make," Lancaster added.

"Selecting players at this stage gives us an early chance to sit down and assess the tour and look forward to next season.

"However, experience tells us that form and fitness will play a major role in selection prior to the QBE internationals in November and December, and any of the players in the senior and Saxons squads could easily be involved. We saw this in January when Geoff Parling came in as an injury replacement for Louis Deacon and has played every Test since."

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