England EPS and Saxons squads for Six Nations 2013

Stuart Lancaster has named the revised Elite Player Squad and Saxons to prepare for this year’s RBS 6 Nations 2013.

England RugbyFORWARDS (18)
Calum Clark (Northampton Saints)
Alex Corbisiero (London Irish)
Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers)
Tom Croft (Leicester Tigers)
Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints)
James Haskell (London Wasps)
Tom Johnson (Exeter Chiefs)
Joe Launchbury (London Wasps)
Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints)
Joe Marler (Harlequins)
Ben Morgan (Gloucester Rugby)
Geoff Parling (Leicester Tigers)
Chris Robshaw (Harlequins)
Mako Vunipola (Saracens)
Thomas Waldrom (Leicester Tigers)
David Wilson (Bath Rugby)
Tom Wood (Northampton Saints)
Tom Youngs (Leicester Tigers)

BACKS (15)
Chris Ashton (Saracens)
Brad Barritt (Saracens)
Mike Brown (Harlequins)
Freddie Burns (Gloucester Rugby)
Danny Care (Harlequins)
Lee Dickson (Northampton Saints)
Owen Farrell (Saracens)
Toby Flood (Leicester Tigers)
Ben Foden (Northampton Saints)
Alex Goode (Saracens)
Jonathan Joseph (London Irish)
David Strettle (Saracens)
Manusamoa Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers)
Billy Twelvetrees (Gloucester Rugby)
Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers)


Mouritz Botha (Saracens)
Nathan Catt (Bath Rugby)
Louis Deacon (Leicester Tigers)
Paul Doran Jones (Northampton Saints)
Phil Dowson (Northampton Saints)
Will Fraser (Saracens)
Joe Gray (Harlequins)
Graham Kitchener (Leicester Tigers)
Shaun Knight (Gloucester Rugby)
Matt Kvesic (Worcester Warriors)
Matt Mullan (Worcester Warriors)
David Paice (London Irish)
Tom Palmer (London Wasps)
George Robson (Harlequins)
Ed Slater (Leicester Tigers)
Henry Thomas (Sale Sharks)
Billy Vunipola (London Wasps)

BACKS (15)
Nick Abendanon (Bath Rugby)
Anthony Allen (Leicester Tigers)
Tom Biggs (Bath Rugby)
Elliot Daly (London Wasps)
Kyle Eastmond (Bath Rugby)
George Ford (Leicester Tigers)
George Lowe (Harlequins)
Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby)
Ugo Monye (Harlequins)
Joe Simpson (London Wasps)
Charlie Sharples (Gloucester Rugby)
Joel Tomkins (Saracens)
Jordan Turner-Hall (Harlequins)
Christian Wade (London Wasps)
Richard Wigglesworth (Saracens)

There are seven changes from the July 2012 Senior squad, with call-ups for Freddie Burns (Gloucester Rugby), Calum Clark (Northampton Saints), James Haskell (London Wasps), Joe Launchbury (London Wasps), David Strettle (Saracens), Billy Twelvetrees (Gloucester Rugby) and Tom Youngs (Leicester Tigers).

The requirement for an eight-man replacements’ bench during the RBS 6 Nations means that the Senior squad has been extended to 33 and Mako Vunipola (Saracens) moves from the Saxons as the additional player.

There are seven changes to the Saxons squad with Elliott Daly (London Wasps), Kyle Eastmond (Bath Rugby), Will Fraser (Saracens), Shaun Knight (Gloucester Rugby), Ed Slater (Leicester Tigers), Joel Tomkins (Saracens) and Billy Vunipola (London Wasps) all making their first appearances this season. Billy Vunipola will train with the senior squad in Leeds (January 20-25) while Tom Croft (Leicester Tigers) continues his return-to-play programme.

England Head Coach Stuart Lancaster said: “The fact that we have spent significant time deliberating over quite a few players shows how tough the competition is to get into this 65 and the strength in depth that is emerging. We have made some changes to both squads and we feel that reflects the players’ form during the first half of the season. There will undoubtedly be movement between the two squads as we go through the RBS 6 Nations and that was evident in the QBE Internationals, with players in form pushing through such as Freddie Burns, Joe Launchbury, Tom Youngs and Mako Vunipola.

“This is a very important year for England, with the Six Nations and the Saxons games to look forward to so there are some great opportunities for the players to demonstrate their club form at international level. The summer tour to Argentina will also be a great chance for those players pushing for a place, especially with some of our Senior squad hopefully going with the Lions, and chances will undoubtedly arise as we hope to play two midweek games as well as the two Tests.”

73 thoughts on “England EPS and Saxons squads for Six Nations 2013

  1. Other than Strettle in there over Wade or Varndell, and Clark’s inclusion which is a little odd, this was probably the right call. Good to see Burns earn a permanent place, and 12T to get promoted.

  2. Calum Clark’s inclusion seems like an odd one to me, and Strettle is probably fortunate to be there as well – I’d have Sharples over Stretts.

    It’s a decent squad though, and you can pick a strong starting XV with some reasonable depth in various positions.

  3. I am glad to hear B. Vunipola will be training with the EPS squad. It sounds like they are doing to him now what they did to Launchbury a year ago and that seems to have gone well!

    Very surprised to see Strettle in there! What has he done to justify his inclusion? One try this season against a very poor Sale defense? Would certainly have rather seen Wade in there.

    Calum Clarke doesn’t surprise me too much; it is clear SL is a big fan. It bodes well that three of the four “locks” (exluding Parling here), are all basically 6s as well. This will give the pack a good dynamism!

    Also, some interesting calls in the Saxons. Not even a place in there for Varndell? What has he done wrong?

    1. You are counting Clark as a lock? I thought he was more of a back-rower who covered at lock (in the same way that Croft does).

      Its a fair point thought and one that may concern the FIVE “out and out” locks in the Saxons squad.

        1. Clarke has played a lot at lock for Saints recently, and apparently that is what he is under in the squad. He is very different to Croft. Croft doesn’t have the size to play lock internationally, but Clarke certainly does.

  4. Surprised to see Strettle taken over Wade and, to be honest, over Tom Varndell who should have at least made the Saxons squad. Apart from that pretty happy with this selection.

  5. On the whole, not much that anyone can argue with. Form and talent being rewarded. Those that haven’t been able to step up at international level dropping down. Rather pleased with the EPS squad really. With regard to Callum Clark, I am prepared to give SL the benefit of doubt as he seems to have an eye for talent that will shine on the international stage.

    And as for all of those people who said that 12T was signing his international death warrant by moving to Glos – a big raspberry to you. Regular playtime in one position has benefited him. George Ford take note!

    1. Good point. I think it’s applicable to Farrell as well, it can’t be easy to work on your weaknesses as a 10 when you play 10, 12 and 13.

  6. Pleased to see Burns and 12trees in.

    Strettle over Sharples is a poor one in my opinion. Appreciate Sharples has had a couple of poor games and not really taken his chance but I fear now he has missed out and we may never know if he could have made a top international wing.

    Not too excited at Croft and Clark. I was hoping Vunipola would make it. But if they don’t think Vunipola is ready to plan a 6N game I can understand the logic in having him in the Saxons squad, train with the EPS and promote him for the summer tour if all is looking good.

    1. I think the fact that Billy Vunipola is training with the full international side means he is basically being considered for the full team already. Its just that the rules of how many can come and go from the EPS means its not practical to name him as an EPS player. Kind of a logistical issue i think.

  7. Having said all of that, I would like a good reliable left wing to emerge soon! Strettle, Sharples, Wade, Varndell, etc, etc – none of them have particularly shone at the highest level. Strettle is probably a slightly more rounded wing than some of the others, and Sharples seems to me to be just off the pace at the moment.

  8. Overall no real surprises.

    Not very happy about Strettle but i think (and want) Lancaster continue to play one of the full backs on the wing.

    Callum Clarke is a bit of a surprise but realistically we know the 3 2nd rows in a match day 23 will be Parling/Launchbury/Lawes

  9. Quite happy with the eps I understand varndell not being in either of the squads due to the fact he still hasn’t learnt to tackle, however strettle over wade/sharples I can’t understand
    Its be intresting to see who gets the 15 shirt with goode brown and foden all proven at international level

    1. Yes battle for 15 is going to be very interesting! Foden looks like he is playing himself back into form, and the other two have played well. Plenty of depth at the back.

  10. Perhaps a bit conservative. My only real question would be why has Lancaster included 5 and a half blindsides, with Lawes and Launchbury also able to play there, making it 8 players who are capable of playing blindside in the squad. It would have been nice to see Kvesic included as an out and out openside option.

    1. Someone made a really amusing observation last year when we had a “6” playing at 6, 7 and 8 and a “12” playing at 10, 12 & 13 that 6 & 12 were the positions Lancaster and Farrell used to play. He certainly likes people who can play 6!

  11. Really happy to see some of the names in the Saxons squad. Surprised by Clark’s inclusion in the EPS though. I thought his disciplinary record would have put Lancaster off. Has he been that good since returning from his ban?

    1. Completely agree on the Saxons, looks an excellent mix of potential and experience. My only ? on it is with Palmer and Botha dropping down and the experience of Robson does Deacon add anything or would it be better to have another prospect in his place. Other than that no issues.

      Does anyone know who is coaching the Saxons this year? With the number of prospects in it I hope they do get to work with someone who will help them continue to develop their game.

        1. Appreciate it’s difficult to have elite coaches for the Saxons when they only play a couple of games a year now. I hope the youngsters do get some time with the first team coaches, e.g. Rowntree doing some scrummaging work with the likes of Knight and Thomas. Just think we’ve got a bit of a hole between first team and age group that I’m not convinced Saxons setup is adequately filling. Still it’s a nice problem to have caused by having better strength in depth and a lot more young talent than we’ve had for a while.

  12. Did Strettle play for Leeds? SL does have blind spot for his ex Leeds charges (Care, Palmer, Clark). As for Clark’s inclusion I did like a comment I read elsewhere that “maybe he had twisted SL’s arm”….

    1. Very good question Jimmy. Personally I would liked to have seen B. Vunipola thrown straight into the senior squad. Better all round than Waldrom from what I’ve seen. And a lot younger too!!

      1. I think with this one it is a restriction on the number of changes he can make. Hence Vunipola being pulled into the EPS squad to train.

  13. Opinion might be a bit one sided as a saints fan, and I can understand why people don’t want Clark in the squad, but he kept his head down while banned, put in a lot of work in training (set new records for fitness or something) and since his return he’s been a standout player in almost every game.

    he was in the squad before the ban so there’s no reason now why he shouldn’t be now, every time Tuilagi has a brilliant game everyone ignores his punches on Ashton, and every time people shout for Danny Care to be starting 9 they forget all the trouble he got himself into…give Clark a chance!

    1. Intentionally breaking someone’s arm is just something I find hard to forgive as opposed to swinging a punch or getting pissed too often which I wouldn’t put in the same category.

      Having said that, he’s served his ban so he’s as entitled as anyone else to be back in the squad.

      1. Completely agree with you there. Throwing punches in the heat of the moment when you almost had your head taken off by a high tackle, going out and getting pissed and generally misbehaving are things most rugby players can admit to doing. But lying on a player in a ruck and breaking his arm, is in a completely different league.
        But he has served his ban, and I really hope he’s learnt his lesson.
        The worry for me is that this won’t be the first time he’s been in an England shirt (I’m talking U20’s etc here), and has previously lost his rag and been carded for some really reckless behaviour on the pitch. There’s no doubt he’s a talented young player, but can be very reckless. I just don’t want England to be playing any matches with 14 men instead of 15 because of one players inability to control his temper.

        1. Personally, I can’t condone any deliberate attempt to injure someone, and I’m sure that everyone else agrees.

          However in SL I trust and if he thinks that Clark has learnt his lesson, having served his ban, then I am happy to give him the benefit of the doubt. If anything similar happens again though, I would be very disappointed to see him in an England squad again. From the experience of the past 12 months I do have a degree of faith that SL would probably play it that way.

  14. Overall it’s a good squad – i think they’ll be very competitive throughout the 6N as there’s great depth from the Saxons. It would be fun to see a Saxons v Full EPS trial game.

    It’s happening again. I’m starting to feel confident about the direction English rugby is heading in. Please, please can we carry on playing where we left off vs NZ? Roll on the 6N!

    1. Yes you’ve hit the nail on the head – starting to feel optimistic again. Oh dear, as an England supporter we know what will happen next. A disappoiting loss to Scotland! We were lucky not to lose by a large margin last year, I am hoping that 12 months of evolution will help us win. Mustn’t get too excited, mustn’t, just mustn’t……

      1. I think it’s fair to say some England teams in the past have gotten carried away with big results, and that has allowed complacency to set in. I’m fairly sure that Lancaster will keep the team grounded, and that can only be a good thing.

        I’m looking forward to the Scotland game, and think if we can play with the intensity and passion we showed against NZ, at home we should be able to win. However, in my opinion if we do struggle (and it’s for a reason other than Scotland are awesome) then the All Blacks win is as good as meaningless.

  15. I know poeple always raise the issues of a lack of cover for Cole, but Wislon is adequate. Do we have any cover either in the main or saxons sqauds for Parling? Without at least one lineout specialist our set piece could go to pieces, although a lock pairing of Lawes and Launchbury does make you shudder…

    1. Wilson can at least scrummage which is the main role, but I don’t think he adds much round the park. As discussed before though, no other viable options at present. Good point about Parling.

        1. Didin’t realise Robson or Palmer were specialists – not sure I’m comforted by that though. Palmer I assume is next in line and really looked as if his international days are behind him on recent performances. Any other line out geeks in the prem, apart from Borthwick?

          1. One might also argue that Tom Croft is decent cover for Parling in the line-out.

            Personally, I have never been convinced by Palmer s line-out work (though admittedly it is not me that he needs to convince)

          2. Croft knows how to run a line out. I would also expect Launchbury can, Wasps have statistically the best line out in the country. Launchbury appears to take on a lot of responsibility in all aspects of play.

          3. robson is a lineout nerd. also the saints lineout is either called by tom wood or hartley, because their locks are Lawes and Manoa, neither being specialists. So there is another forward who understands lineouts in the squad.

            on launchbury doing it, Wentzel is the main lineout man at wasps, he is the reason for such good stats. Having said this, i saw SL chat to Dia Young before a wasps game, and Wentzel came off, with Launchers taking over the LO calls. I guess this is the plan incase something happen to Parling.

            But agree with Blub, Crofty is a bit of a lineout nerd too. it would mean a selection change, or pack reshuffle though if parling was lost.

      1. In addition to Doran-Jones – who appears to do better in the scrums than his size would suggest – and the enormous Henry Thomas, he has brought in Shaun Knight. He is very young (like Thomas), but apparently carries great potential, which for the fifth choice TH, is no bad thing.

        Most interestingly though, is that he has not come through the academy system, but from local junior rugby, and that has been a rich source of fine Gloucester and England props in the past!

  16. We seem to have a million sixes again. Kvesic played a blinder against Worcester and he’s a genuine ball snaffling seven. Clark doesn’t deserve to be in, some message that sends to players. Think strettle is a weak selection too. Yeah he plays on the left but all he really brings is kick chasing and defence? He does show us a mazy run about twice a season but anyone who’s watched Saracens knows they aren’t playing the most fluid, majestic rugby to grace the premiership…

    1. It was all over the rugby media for weeks after it happened! Surprised you missed that.


      “I have coached him since he was 14 and I know him well enough to know that he is hugely regretful of the incident,” said Lancaster. “When he went into the hearing he didn’t do anything other than put his hands up and say, ‘I made a bad mistake, I apologise’.

      “He has never felt anything other than remorse. He has served his punishment, a 32-week ban. I was disappointed we ended up in the situation that (he) missed out on developing himself for club and country. Massively. But equally, as with other players in the past, I think everyone deserves a second chance – and certainly he does.”

      1. Geat, I’ve since read all the reports of remorse but I just wouldn’t buy them. Even if he really is remorseful one look at that video, at the calculated way he bends a players arm the wrong way after the play has ended, a player who can’t do anything to defend himself. I can’t think of much worse – there are fights, headbutts, cheap punches from behind. But this looks a level above because it looks like nothing other than a cold blooded attempt to hurt someone really badly. It’s a stain on rugby that he’s allowed back on the pitch.

  17. One area were I’m pleased about this england squad is the bench, with lawes and xo most likely to come on round the 60 min mark will scare a lot of teams! I also expect that parling will be a key man, with him likely not to miss a single minute bar injuries and cards

    I agree with those who say what clarke done was disgraceful but think we now need to let the kid have his secound chance, as he is a great player, but somthing should be put in place where he gets extended suspensions if he does anything wrong

    1. I agree that Lancaster has done nothing wrong by picking him as he is now eligible. I guess, having only see the incident for the first time now, the fact he is eligible pains me. He shouldn’t be allowed to play ever again. Some things are just too much. I wonder what it does take to get a lifetime ban?

      1. I don’t disagree with all that you say on this and it does make me feel uneasy but is this really worse than deliberate eye gauging? A player can recover from a broken arm but not being blinded. I hope SL is right and this was some moment of madness.

        1. i dont agree with what clark did. i want to get that out of the way first and formost.

          but his inclusion in the squad has a few benefits from my point of view.
          1 – he lead england u20’s to JWC final, in a team that produced some pretty decent player. he is a clear leader with a huge drive to be competitive.
          2- he has an “edge” or “bit of nasty” about him. this can be either a massive bonus, or HUGE liability, depending on how he channels it. the fact of the matter is, apart from the occasional bit from hartley, the england pack lacks a real “hardman” someone like Bakkie Botha, Eben Ezebeth, Jerry Collins. as long as he channels it properly, it could help instill a bit of competition in some of the other boys.

      2. I agree with Brighton here. There are some things that should result in a life time ban

        Clear cut gouging

        Deliberate attempts to injure – eg the Clark example, nonu and mealaumu on BOD and Bradley Davies on Ryan

  18. Don’t think Clarke should have ever been allowed to play the game again, not only for the nature of his actions but also because of the message it sends that violent players can continue to play the game.
    Wouldn’t be too surprised or indeed annoyed by the fact that there will be 3 fullbacks on the pitch at one time if foden puts out ashton

  19. Good to see Croft back in the mix after his serious neck injury.
    Twelvetrees work at the breakdown has really improved and he would take the pressure off any fly-half as he has a decent boot on him. He has florished at Gloucester.
    Billy Vunipola is having a corker of a season but it may be a tad too early to step up to the full international level.
    It’s a pity SL couldn’t find any room for Joe Simpson in the Elite squad though.

    1. Agree with regard to Simpson. I think that he brings something different to the position. Quite like to see him on the bench as a game changer.

    2. I would rather see Vunipola in the senior squad than Waldrom. I just think Waldrom is a good club player, but at international level he’s never going to cut it. While Vunipola is young enough that if he was put in now, he could potentially be first choice at 8. Of the 8’s to choose from he is having the best season so far. Morgan seems to be blowing hot and cold, and I think Crane has been playing 8 for Tigers more than Waldrom lately?

      1. One step at a time, I would say. I don’t think that Waldrom has ever let England down and whereas he may not be the long term answer let Vunipola earn his spurs first. Backrow is still a wide open area for selection in my opinion up to 2015.

        1. Vunipolas control at the base of the scrum and his tackling are currently not of international standard, but given a year or so in the prem with Dai Young, hell get there.

  20. 12Trees Long overdue. Still do not get why Abendanon is not number 1 choice as England Fullback, I must be watching different matches to the selectors. Sarries Supporter by the way.

    1. I’m a Bath season ticket holder and so I get to see a lot of Abendanon in action. His running is of course exceptional, but I think it might be his kicking that’s holding him back. Having said that, maybe if we were top 4 rather than languishing in 8th, perhaps the selectors would view him differently.

      1. He has never stepped up in terms of defence and has a tendency to go missing in games.
        no questioning his go forward tho!

  21. Can someone explain to me how Tom Varndell has missed out on saxons selection?
    I have no particular allegiance so any wasps favouritism comments would be wide of the mark, but he has scored the most tries this season, and I personally think that a lot of how well christian wade is playing is to do with having someone who he knows will always be with him if he tries something random

  22. I think it is a little early to bring Croft back into the squad, would rather see kvesic get a chance or better still bring S Armitage into the EPS. We have great options in the back row but just think one of these would balance it out a little. Also agree Varndell should be rewarded with a chance in the saxons at least.

  23. I think that I would pick the following 1st XV from this squad for the first match:

    1..A. Corbisero
    2. D. Hartley
    3. D. Cole
    4. G. Parling
    5. J. Launchbury
    6. T. Wood
    7. C. Robshaw
    8. B. Morgan

    9. D. Care
    10. O. Farrell
    11. B. Foden
    12. B. Barrit
    13. M. Tuilagi
    14. C. Ashton
    15. M. Brown

    16. M. Vunipola
    17. D. Wilson
    18. T. Youngs
    19. C. Lawes
    20. J. Haskell
    21. B. Youngs
    22. F. Burns
    23. J. Joseph

    I would normally have Tom Croft in there but I think that he needs a few more games to get his match fitness back before inclusion. Also, there is a very tight call in not having Goode included as he played very well in the Autumn internationals, especially as a second receiver. I have gone for Foden as he offers more of an attacking running threat and is a true finisher however I can’t quite decide 100% to whether he should play full back with Brown on the left wing or the opposite. I would probably sway with Brown at FB because of his superior kicking game but its close. The one thing that does strike me also is the impact of this bench – each player (probably with the exception of Wilson) can change a game which will be a massive support to England’s chances. I think they have a fantastic chance of winning the tournament with this team, and maybe, just maybe, the Grand Slam. Fingers crossed!

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