6 Surprise Decisions in England's Six Nations Squad
Stuart Lancaster has largely decided to stick rather than twist with his Six Nations selection.
His hand has been forced in a number of positions by the players still on the injured list, but there are still some decisions that require a little head-scratching when analysed further.
Let's take a look.
No Promotion for Myler
Stephen Myler finds himself in the expanded training squad for the Six Nations but remains outside the full elite squad. Here, Stuart Lancaster has contradicted himself somewhat.
He beats the drum regularly for rewarding form, but keeping the struggling Freddie Burns in his elite squad ahead of a player who is performing at a far higher level at present flies in the face of that.
No David Strettle
The Aviva Premiership’s top try scorer doesn’t make the expanded Six Nations training squad despite crossing the whitewash eight times in the Premiership this season.
With injured duo Marland Yarde and Christian Wade unlikely to play a part in the championship, it leaves options on the wing such as the out-of-sorts Chris Ashton and the inexperienced Jonny May and Jack Nowell.
It's admirable to give youth a chance, but with the World Cup next year Lancaster has no clear picture of who will make his back three up.
Yarde and Wade would have been given their chance to establish themselves in this tournament, but the next men in the pecking order are now in the squad knowing they are far from Lancaster's first choices.
Strettle would bring an experienced head with a keen nose for the try line, but at the age of 30, he doesn't seem to fit the profile Lancaster is looking for.
No Toby Flood
The de-selection of Toby Flood from the EPS was widely expected, but it might turn out to be a hasty move by Stuart Lancaster.
Without Flood, there will be few experienced heads not only in the Six Nations squad but also for the tour to New Zealand.
Flood's chances have been limited in an England shirt under Lancaster, but if anything happens to Owen Farrell, the No. 10 shirt will be in the hands of either an inexperienced George Ford or the out-of-sorts and callow Freddie Burns.
The Age of England's Squad
If history tells us anything, it's that you need a hefty dose of experience in your side to win a major trophy.
The last four World Cup-winning squads, according to The Telegraph, have had average ages of 27, 28, 27 and 28.
Lancaster's Six Nations training squad is 24, and outside of it, there are few old heads on the verges.
Either Lancaster knows something we don't, or he places no value on a blend of youth and experience.
The Number of Injured Players Still in the EPS
The current raft of injuries to players in the official elite squad has highlighted a problem with the stringent rules around selection.
Stuart Lancaster is compelled to keep those injured players on his elite list as they have a chance of being fit before the summer tour to New Zealand, and if he dumps them now he would be unable to promote them again. What nonsense.
Why can’t he be free to pick a squad for the here and now of fit players who need to go and do a job for him in the Six Nations?
The Timing of the Announcement
Why name your squad with two weeks of raw-boned, do-or-die Heineken Cup action to be played?
Lancaster already has a lengthy injury list, and he may find it extended by the next fortnight of battle.
The vast majority of his squad is going into the white heat of the last pool matches in Europe's premier club competition, and the odds have to be short on some of them not escaping unscathed.
Red pens at the ready.
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