england rugbyEngland coach Stuart Lancaster today announced his EPS and Saxons squads ahead of the Autumn Internationals… after an extremely busy summer of rugby including a tour to Argentina and a certain Lions Tour this announcement was eagerly anticipated and there was much speculation as to whether Stuart would make any Gatland’esque monumental squad changes. In fact he didn’t and there are just 6 new entrants into the EPS squad and 3 new Saxons’ players, so nothing too outrageous, on the surface anyway. If we delve a little deeper there are a few decisions that might provoke some outrage in the rugby world, but certainly not to the BOD dropping level of a few weeks ago!

This morning’s announcement is extremely important, there are only 23 matches left until the 2015 World Cup, and I’m sure I don’t need to remind you that this World Cup is being held here. A home world cup has huge expectations, just ask New Zealand and we are expected to stand up and deliver the goods come 2015. So let’s look at a few talking points from this morning’s announcement shall;

The Senior EPS squad is made up of 33 players in total, clearly there isn’t room for everyone and there will be some disappointed players today who ‘only’ made the Saxons. Let’s not forget that the beauty of this system is that we should have 64 players all capable of pulling on an England Shirt and performing at test level at a moment’s notice. 

Saxons Newbies: Jack Nowell is a product of the Exeter Chiefs’ academy and one of England’s Junior World Championship winners – he arrives into the Saxons Squad to devastate from Full Back and push on his fantastic upward trajectory to date. Harlequins Luke Wallace also steps into the fold after proving week in and week out whilst Chris Robshaw was away just how brilliant he can be. Finally Matthew Tait returns to the Saxons after a long time out of the picture due to injury and lack of form. 

The Hartley & Ashton Debate:  Dylan Hartley retains his space in the EPS squad despite his atrocious behaviour in the Aviva Premiership Final. Rightly Stuart addressed this following the announcement saying; “I had a long hard think about it and a long conversation with him. I wanted to be reassured that he understands where the line is, what is right and what is wrong,”.  Chris Ashton is another contentious one who retains his place despite having scored just 2 tries in his last 17 Tests for England and not many more at Sarries. His dwindling form and defensive inadequacies have led many to people calling for him to be dropped for a long time however clearly his “potential” still outshines all of this in the eyes of Stuart.

New Kids on the Wing: Christian Wade, Marland Yarde and Kyle Eastmond all join the EPS Squad after their strong performances in Argentina… alas still there is no room for oldie Tom Varndell who’s England ship seems to have sailed and sunk. Hopefully having actual wingers in the squad means that Mike Brown will now contest for the Full Back position only and not moonlight on the wing any more!! 
New Beef: Dave Attwood brings into the squad his physicality, Billy Vunipola and Matt Kvesic are the young and dynamic back row players designed to push our older one’s in every way for a starting spot. These guys all arrive into the EPS Squad at the expense of Calum Clark, James Haskell, Thomas Waldrom and Tom Johnson who slip into the Saxons Squad

Clearly things were not easy for Stuart and his team; “This was the toughest EPS selection we’ve had to make with fierce competition for places in every area of the squad after an excellent summer for England players at all levels,” .

With so much time to go between now and 2ndNovember clearly there will be changes – players will obtain injuries slogging it out week in week out for their clubs and people will rise and dip in form… but this 65 man squad is the starting point for the 2013/14 England campaign.

Argentina, Australia and New Zealand will provide the first tests for the EPS squad at HQ in November and then we will march forward into the 6 Nations. This year’s 6 Nations’ will be tough, the brilliance of the Welsh contingent in Australia helping us to win the Lions tour will be a HUGE force to take on. This is a daunting prospect to say the least, however given the 2015 goal it is one that we have to take on and smash! One question that does remain is who will lead this England EPS squad into these next few months?? Unfortunately we will have to wait and see, Stuart is not expected to announce his captain until October, therefore the speculation will continue as to whether Chris Robshaw will retain that honour or whether someone else will take the reigns.

For now the EPS and Saxons squads will travel to Loughborough for some training and, I would suspect, a spot of team bonding. Maybe a little trip back to my old uni is required, just to make sure they all know their way around the campus and have everything that is required!?!! On that note I will leave you with the full squad lists below for you to peruse at your leisure: 

England Senior EPS
Forwards: David Attwood (Bath Rugby), Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers), Alex Corbisiero (Northampton Saints), Tom Croft (Leicester Tigers), Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints), Matt Kvesic (Gloucester Rugby), Joe Launchbury (London Wasps), Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints), Joe Marler (Harlequins), Ben Morgan (Gloucester Rugby), Geoff Parling (Leicester Tigers), Chris Robshaw (Harlequins), Billy Vunipola (Saracens), Mako Vunipola (Saracens), David Wilson (Bath Rugby), Tom Wood (Northampton Saints), Tom Youngs (Leicester Tigers). Backs: 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), Kyle Eastmond (Bath Rugby), Manusamoa Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers), Billy Twelvetrees (Gloucester Rugby), Christian Wade (London Wasps), Marland Yarde (London Irish), Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers).

England Saxons 
Forwards: Calum Clark (Northampton Saints), Jordan Crane (Leicester Tigers), Paul Doran Jones (Harlequins), Will Fraser (Saracens), James Haskell (London Wasps), Tom Johnson (Exeter Chiefs), Graham Kitchener (Leicester Tigers), George Kruis (Saracens), Kearnan Myall (London Wasps), David Paice (London Irish), George Robson (Harlequins), Ed Slater (Leicester Tigers), Henry Thomas (Sale Sharks), Thomas Waldrom (Leicester Tigers), Luke Wallace (Harlequins), Rob Webber (Bath Rugby), Nick Wood (Gloucester Rugby) Backs: Anthony Allen (Leicester Tigers), Luther Burrell (Northampton Saints), Elliot Daly (London Wasps), George Ford (Bath Rugby), Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby), Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby), Ugo Monye (Harlequins), Stephen Myler (Northampton Saints), Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs), Charlie Sharples (Gloucester Rugby), Joe Simpson (London Wasps), David Strettle (Saracens), Mathew Tait (Leicester Tigers), Joel Tomkins (Saracens), Richard Wigglesworth (Saracens)