Although not without his supporters, Burgess’ lack of international experience and concerns over his primary position nonetheless renders his inclusion in the squad a surprise. Swamped by media rumours ever since his move from Rugby League, it will be interesting to see how Lancaster utilises the Bath man in the pool games, with his only likely start being in Manchester against Uruguay. But for all the naysayers, of whom former England Captain Will Carling is one, Burgess really does represent something that England will miss without Manu Tuilagi: bulk. Provided England get to the latter stages of the tournament, Burgess’ willingness to engage his opponents man for man will add an extra feather to England’s bow as the majority of Lancaster’s selections behind the scrum point to finesse, not brute force.
The Exeter Contingent
Pleasingly, and not unsurprisingly, in the eyes of many Exonians, the Chiefs have once again succeeded in punching above their weight by having three members of the squad included in Lancaster’s final 31. In selecting Henry Slade, Jack Nowell and new recruit, Geoff Parling, the England hierarchy have recognised the Chiefs’ commitment to fast-flowing and attacking rugby, although it is worth questioning why Lancaster only felt fit to bring Slade into the fold so late on. On the downside, one man who did not make it was Luke Cowan-Dickie, who despite having enormous potential had a nightmare on debut at Twickenham, and therefore has been replaced by Jamie George in Lancaster’s squad.
Front row concerns
For those who remember England’s triumphant victory over Ireland in the 2012 Six Nations, England’s recent scrummaging performances have likely come as a nasty shock. For England to have a chance of success on home soil, Lancaster desperately needs to impose resilience in a surprisingly brittle pack, something not helped by Dylan Hartley’s enforced absence. More worryingly still, England’s recent front-row issues have come against the French, who despite having a reputation for producing warriors in the tight five, do not represent the toughest task that England are likely to face this autumn.
Those who didn’t make it
In contrast to Luke Cowan-Dickie, Dave Attwood, Danny Cipriani and Luther Burrell can all feel hard done by in not having been selected. Cipriani, in particular, will have hoped that his recent performances might have gone some way to closing the gap on Alex Goode for the utility back role, but ultimately Goode’s accomplished showing against France at Twickenham proved insurmountable. Of the others who were not selected, none proved themselves to the England coaching team with Billy Twelvetrees’ defensive frailty and Calum Clarke’s indiscipline counting against them in Lancaster’s thoughts. Spare a thought for Nick Easter though, who, having had the door opened a jar has now had it slammed in his face. An unfortunate end to the international career of the ageing Harlequin.
Does this squad have what it takes to win the World Cup?
Yes, if the ties fall in England’s favour. Provided results play out as expected, England will face Samoa or Scotland in the Quarter-finals, followed by an appealing tie against Ireland or Argentina. Crucially then, England have a chance of avoiding both South Africa and New Zealand until the final itself, although a slip up against either Australia or Wales in the group stage would likely lead to a showdown with the Springboks on 17 October. Ultimately though, Lancaster has assembled an exciting squad with reasonable experience, who will not be overawed by playing a World Cup on their home turf and should at the very least make the semis.
Ben Marvell, Sports Team