Speaking at this morning’s RBS 6 Nations launch in London, England head coach Stuart Lancaster admitted that who would fill the 13 shirt in a week and a half’s time at the Stade de France was a bit of a dilemma. And he went on to say that the fact that England had four recognised ’12s’ in the squad was not that relevant, given the way the modern centre has to play.
“This concept of ‘inside/outside centre’ is slightly inaccurate for how the modern game is played,” he said. “A guy to get you across the gainline and a ball-player, in your centres, is quite a good combination to have. Whether it was Luther (Burrell) and Billy (Twelvetrees), or Kyle (Eastmond) and Brad (Barritt), or whichever, I think that works.”
The return of Barritt is a boost for Lancaster, whose options in the centres have been wearing increasingly thin as a result of a horrific injury list.
“We’ve got four centres training in camp at the moment: Billy Twelvetrees, Kyle, Luther and Brad’s back – that was the first time he’d trained with us since March last year, because he didn’t come on the summer tour.
“In terms of the 13s, (Henry) Trinder’s injured, Joel Tomkins is injured, Jonathan Joseph is now injured, so looking at the centre combination and how it’ll unfold with Manu being injured as well, it’s good that we’ve got Brad Barritt back in the equation, and as part of selection going into the French game we’ll decide which is the best combination to go with.”
The other option at 13 would appear to be Northampton’s Luther Burrell, who has been enjoying a fruitful season for the Saints, and a man who has been known by Lancaster for quite some time.
“We’re keeping our options open at the moment, but the good thing about Luther is that he came to Argentina, he was involved in the QBEs (although he didn’t play) and he’s someone I’ve known for a long time. He has defended at 13, too.”
Elsewhere in the squad, Lancaster confirmed that Danny Care will return to training tomorrow and will be available for the France game, while there were mixed reports for the rest of the injured England contingent.
“Danny Care’s hopefully going to train tomorrow,” confirmed the head coach. “Other than that, we came through the European weekend pretty well. We had 33 lads training yesterday, out of 35 – we gave Dan Cole a rest because his neck was sore, but he’ll be fine.
“In the medium term, Ben Foden and Marland Yarde are making good progress, and they should be [back] February time, in terms of return to club rugby, and then obviously beyond there you’ve got Christian Wade, Alex Corbisiero, Geoff Parling, Tom Croft and Manu (Tuilagi).
“Manu’s making good progress, so I think he’s probably next in line, but again that’ll be depending on where Leicester see him – they want to make sure he’s right if he plays.”
By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images