Wasps second-row forward Joe Launchbury’s return from injury unscathed was enough for England boss Stuart Lancaster to see his side’s 73-12 victory over the Barbarians as a positive, while Danny Cipriani hitting 11 out of 11 off the tee keeps up the pressure on absent fly-halves George Ford and Owen Farrell.
That being said, there were a few other pleasing signs in a fixture that’s admittedly very tough to read, considering the Baa-Baas’ famed lack of team cohesion.
These three certainly enhanced their claims for serious involvement at the World Cup this autumn…
First-choice hooker Dylan Hartley will sit out the World Cup after picking up a four-game ban for foul play in Northampton’s Aviva Premiership playoffs semi-final against Saracens, having missed the last British and Irish Lions tour to Australia following disciplinary problems at a similar stage of the 2012/13 campaign.
Lancaster has suggested the 29-year-old’s England career could be over, leaving Leicester’s Tom Youngs as putative number one in the position, with a bunch of inexperienced types behind.
Exeter youngster Cowan-Dickie could be the man to fill Hartley’s boots after a cracking season with the Chiefs, who only just failed to make the playoffs on the final day of the regular campaign, and an exciting debut against Robbie Deans’ tourists.
At 6ft and almost 18st, the 20-year-old has a similar physique to New Zealand-born Hartley, while Youngs is significantly smaller.
Lancaster will need brute strength over line-out skills on occasion during the tournament, so expect a new name to emerge at number two, whether it be Cowan-Dickie or slightly more experienced Wasps man Rob Webber.
After Wade burst onto the scene immediately prior to the 2013 Lions’ tour, which earned him an appearance for Warren Gatland’s composite side against the Brumbies, it was no surprise to see the rapid Wasps winger run in a hat-trick against the Baa-Baas.
18 months of injury nightmares have limited the 24-year-old to just two England caps, but Lancaster will have a good look at how Wade compares to the likes of Marland Yarde and Jonny May over the summer.
If he proves his fitness Wade’s lightning pace (he runs 100 metres in under 11 seconds) could be a crucial weapon at the World Cup.
This Exeter youngster can play at full-back, fly-half or inside centre, where he put in an assured performance against Deans’ lot, topped off with one of England’s nine tries.
With Ford, Farrell and Cipriani all ahead of him at 10, Slade’s preferred position, the 22-year-old has a much better chance of game-time elsewhere, particularly centre.
Manu Tuilagi is banned, few are claiming Sam Burgess to be the finished article, while the likes of Billy Twelvetrees and Luther Burrell aren’t likely to make anyone’s World Cup dream teams.
Slade’s versatility could become a burden later on in his career, but add in the fact only two specialist full-backs made the initial 50-man squad and he looks a decent bet to still be there come early September.
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