Stuart Lancaster named his 33-man England Elite Player Squad on Wednesday for the forthcoming Autumn internationals, selecting Henry Trinder among a batch of uncapped players, although there were several high-profile absentees due to injury.
Alex Corbisiero, sidelined by a knee problem according to Mark Souster of the Times (subscription required), joins Tom Croft, Manu Tuilagi and Brad Barritt in the treatment room—although Corbisiero was still named in the squad.
Lancaster commented, per ESPN.co.uk:
Inevitably there have been some injuries and there is still a big European weekend ahead.
But injuries always create opportunities and we are pleased to call up Tom Johnson, Joel Tomkins, Henry Trinder and Luther Burrell into the senior EPS, with Luther joining us as injury cover so it will be great for him to come in and put a marker down in what is going to be a competitive selection leading into the Australia game.
We have three major Tests ahead of us and we are looking forward to the challenge.
Burrell, Tomkins, Trinder and Johnson were the most significant names in Lancaster's selection, which was announced alongside coach Andy Farrell on Wednesday.
The squad announcement brings the potential for a trio of debutants to stake their claim at international level, with Tomkins, Burrell and Trinder all capitalising on the injuries to Tuilagi and Barritt.
Trinder, currently of Gloucester, has arguably been the most outstanding centre so far in this year's Aviva Premiership, combining pace with soft hands and the ability to offload. He has managed to impress in a struggling Gloucester side that sits 10th in the table.
Tomkins is the chief rival to Trinder, offering the more powerful option that is more in line with the qualities offered by the men he is replacing.
Billy Twelvetrees will likely be the major beneficiary of Tuilagi and Barritt's absence. The Gloucester three-quarter, who can be erratic but is capable of brilliance—and adds a kicking option—is expected to earn a starting spot for the first Autumn Test, per ESPN.co.uk.
Forward Corbisiero, as reported by Souster, is expected to miss the first two Tests, but has been kept in the squad to see how he reacts to his knee issue. Lancaster confirmed he needs fluid draining from the problem area, per Sky Sports:
Alex has had a bit of fluid drained off his knee. It is recommended that he has a couple of weeks of rehab so he is definitely not out of the QBE Series by any stretch of the imagination.
Everyone is optimistically hoping that he will come through and be available for some if not all of the games, but at the moment he is having some fluid drained off the knee.
Elsewhere, Tom Johnson is drafted in as cover for the injured Tom Croft. The captaincy, meanwhile, will not be confirmed until closer to the first Test.
England begin their November international schedule with a clash against Australia at Twickenham on Nov. 2. They then meet Argentina a week later before the much anticipated showdown with New Zealand on Nov. 16.
Lancaster’s men were beaten 20-14 by the Wallabies in last year’s corresponding fixture. However, they stunned the world with a phenomenal display against the All Blacks, beating the world champions 38-21.
England will be expected to avenge that loss to Australia, who endured a torrid Rugby Championship campaign, losing all four games played against South Africa and New Zealand.
However, Lancaster’s men will once again be the underdogs against the All Blacks, who won all six Rugby Championship fixtures, including a stunning 38-27 triumph to seal the title in Johannesburg.
England’s win over New Zealand 12 months ago was built on an incredible tempo, pressing their visitors back and forcing mistakes in what has to be the best performance of Lancaster’s reign.
Will England repeat their win over New Zealand?
The aim this year will be to maintain that intensity, while adding the necessary imagination and creativity with ball in hand to give England variation in attack.
Injuries to Tuilagi and Barritt will make it difficult for Lancaster to bring that same physicality to the midfield, but it does offer the chance to introduce a more inventive look to England's back line.
England Squad (per ESPN.co.uk):
David Attwood (Bath Rugby), Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers), Alex Corbisiero (Northampton Saints), Tom Johnson (Exeter Chiefs), 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)
Chris Ashton (Saracens), Mike Brown (Harlequins), Freddie Burns (Gloucester Rugby), Luther Burrell (Northampton Saints), Danny Care (Harlequins), Lee Dickson (Northampton Saints), Kyle Eastmond (Bath Rugby), Owen Farrell (Saracens), Toby Flood (Leicester Tigers), Ben Foden (Northampton Saints), Alex Goode (Saracens), Henry Trinder (Gloucester Rugby), Joel Tomkins (Saracens), Billy Twelvetrees (Gloucester Rugby), Christian Wade (London Wasps), Marland Yarde (London Irish), Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers)