England ring changes ahead of Six Nations as Ford replaces Flood
Stuart Lancaster has called up eight new faces to England’s Elite player squad for the Six Nations and the summer tour to New Zealand with Leicester’s Toby Flood the notable absentee.
England, who are 9/4 to win the Six Nations and 13/2 to claim a Grand Slam, have named in-form George Ford as the 28-year-old’s replacement as they look to build on their performances in the autumn when defeating Australia and Argentina, while running World Champions New Zealand close in a 20-33 defeat.
And with a World Cup on home soil just 20 months away, England, who are 7/1 to repeat their 2003 success, are looking to the future by also naming Northampton centre Luther Burrell, Exeter flanker Tom Johnson, Gloucester wing Jonny May, Wasps prop Matt Mullan, Exeter wing/full-back Jack Nowell, Leicester lock Ed Slater, Sale prop Henry Thomas and Bath wing/full-back Anthony Watson in the squad.
And with the Six Nations just around the corner the Ladbrokes news team takes a look at three of the new faces qho could be vying for selection when England travel to Paris for their opener against France:
George Ford – Age: 20 – Position: Fly-half – Club: Bath
With Toby Flood missing out on inclusion in the squad because of a reported move to France at the end of the current campaign, in-form George Ford has seen off the challenge of a rejuvenated Danny Cipriani for a coveted fly-half spot alongside Owen Farrell.
After four years of being in Flood’s shadow at Leicester, Ford has lit up the Rec this season following his move to Bath. And his performance, in which he set up all three of his side’s tries, during the 27-27 draw against his former club last weekend has sealed his promotion from the Saxons to the full England squad.
Farrell will certainly remain England’s first choice in the pivotal play-maker position but Ford, who was named International Rugby Board junior World Player of the Year in 2011, provides an exciting alternative and also gives Lancaster the option of pairing the duo together in the 10 and 12 positions – just as they did for the England Under-20 side on the way to the junior World Cup final in 2011.
Luther Burrell – Age: 26 – Position: Centre – Club: Northampton Saints
Northampton Saints star Luther Burrell was very unlucky not to see some game time during the Autumn internationals but the centre has continued to flourish at club level and his performances this season are worthy of a place in the England squad.
The 26-year-old is a big strong ball carrier with excellent pace but it is his off-loading skills which have caught the eye of the England coaching staff, in what has been an impressive first half of the season.
And reports suggest Burrell will be given his England debut in Paris in a centre partnership with Billy Twelvetrees which Lancaster believes will give his side some of the cutting edge which has been missing in the injured Manu Tuilagi’s absence.
Anthony Watson – Age: 19 – Position: Wing/Full-back – Club: Bath
With England searching for a new speed merchant following the injuries to Christian Wade and Marlon Yarde, Anthony Watson has propelled himself into the spotlight after some scintillating performances in Bath’s rise to third in the Aviva Premiership table.
And Lancaster, who was in the stands for Bath’s draw with Leicester, saw firsthand the 19-year-old’s finishing prowess out on the flank as he used all of his speed and agility to cross the line for the first try of the match.
The winger, who can also play full-back, was lavished with praise by coach Mike Ford for his performance at Welford Road and it has earned him a ticket to the England party.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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