England have taken a big step to banishing the memory of their dreadful 2011 Rugby World Cup campaign by naming a much-changed squad for the upcoming Six Nations Championship.
Saracens back Owen Farrell, Scarlets number eight Ben Morgan and Northampton trio Calum Clark, Phil Dowson and Lee Dickson have all been selected for the 32-man elite squad but it’s the absences as much as the inclusions that catch the eye.
Jonny Wilkinson, Lewis Moody and hooker Steve Thompson all quit the international game following the disappointment in New Zealand, while the likes of Mike Tindall, Mark Cueto, Nick Easter, Shontayne Hape and Riki Flutey have not been selected.
Meanwhile, Danny Care is – as was expected – not named in either squad due to his arrest for drink driving over the festive period, while Louis Deacon, Andrew Sheridan and Richard Wigglesworth are out of the whole tournament with injuries.
There are nine uncapped players in the caretaker Head Coach Stuart Lancaster’s first squad and it provides cause for cautious optimism for their upcoming Six Nations campaign.
England are currently third favourites for the championship at 3/1 behind World Cup finalists France (13/8) and the team they defeated in the semi-finals, Wales, who are 11/4.
The new-look England side will face a difficult opening game in Scotland but are expected to come out on top at 4/7 and know their performance will be scrutinised by an English public demanding improvement.
They will have a tough task to defend the title they won last year but there can be no doubt that things are starting to look up for England.
England Senior Elite Player Squad
Mouritz Botha (Saracens)
Callum Clark (Northampton Saints)
Alex Corbisiero (London Irish)
Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers)
Tom Croft (Leicester Tigers)
Louis Deacon (Leicester Tigers)
Phil Dowson (Northampton Saints)
Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints)
Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints)
Joe Marler (Harlequins)
Lee Mears (Bath Rugby)
Ben Morgan (Scarlets)
Tom Palmer (Stade Francais)
Chris Robshaw (Harlequins)
Matt Stevens (Saracens)
Rob Webber (London Wasps)
David Wilson (Bath Rugby)
Tom Wood (Northampton Saints)
Chris Ashton (Northampton Saints)
Brad Barritt (Saracens)
Mike Brown (Harlequins)
Lee Dickson (Northampton Saints)
Owen Farrell (Saracens)
Toby Flood (Leicester Tigers)
Ben Foden (Northampton Saints)
Charlie Hodgson (Saracens)
Joe Simpson (London Wasps)
Charlie Sharples (Gloucester Rugby)
David Strettle (Saracens)
Maunsamoa Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers)
Jordan Turner-Hall (Harlequins)
Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers)