England head coach Stuart Lancaster has named his initial 33-man Elite Player Squad (EPS) for their upcoming November test matches against New Zealand, South Africa, Samoa and Australia. The announcement was moved from its more traditional August slot to enable the England coaches to watch players in domestic and European action as competition for places in England’s 2015 World Cup squad hots up.
Chris Robshaw retains the captaincy in a squad which includes three uncapped players, including winger Semesa Rokoduguni, who replaces Chris Ashton, and George Kruis, both called up for the first time. However, there is no place in the squad for David Strettle, Christian Wade, Danny Cipriani or Freddie Burns, despite strong performances recently, while Manu Tuilagi remains on watch for the time being, following an injury sustained in the European Rugby Champions Cup match against Ulster.
Cipriani is perhaps the biggest name to be ommitted, having impressed for Sale Sharks. Nonetheless, Lancaster is evidently not afraid to experiment. Lancaster will hope Tuilagi doesn’t spend long on an already lengthy injury list, which includes Alex Corbisiero, Tom Croft, Mako Vunipola and Geoff Parling. The Rugby Football Union’s policy of only picking players based in England means Toby Flood is left out of the squad, following his move to Toulouse in the summer. European Player of the Year, Steffon Armitage, has also been left out of the squad, after a possible move to Bath fell through. The strength of the opposition will ensure England are given a tough test ahead of next year’s tournament, where they will have the added advantage of playing on home soil. The squad can still be changed, and upcoming club fixtures, as well as injuries, could effect changes to the squad before England begin the QBE Internationals Series against New Zealand on 8th November.