Stuart Lancaster expects established players to raise their games against Argentina
For only second time since breaking into team, 41-times capped Dan Cole finds himself on bench
England’s Chris Ashton in action against Australia at Twickenham.
One of Stuart Lancaster’s key targets is for his England side to be sitting in second place in the world rankings by next September. It could happen ahead of schedule should they keep winning and South Africa stutter on their European tour, hence the extra pressure being brought to bear on established players to raise their games.
For only the second time since breaking into the team, the 41-times capped Cole finds himself on the bench, while Ashton would have been dropped had injury not cruelly struck down both his younger rivals Marland Yarde and Christian Wade. The result is an amended team sheet for tomorrow’s game with Argentina, featuring five Lions on the bench compared with two in the starting XV.
An entirely fresh frontrow of Joe Marler, Dylan Hartley and David Wilson have been picked, with Ben Foden back in an England shirt at Twickenham for the first time in 19 months. Geoff Parling and Alex Corbisiero also return on the bench but Ben Youngs will require a fitness test this morning on a bruised hip before his availability can be confirmed.
Lancaster reserved particular sympathy for the unfortunate Wade, who had been in line to start before tweaking a hamstring as he bent down to pick up a ball on the training ground. He should recover by early next week but this would have been a glorious opportunity to show what he can do.
Yarde’s sore hip was also judged not to have recovered sufficiently but Ashton’s reprieve will be temporary if he fails to reach the standards Lancaster now routinely expects.
Be so blunt
It is rare for the management to be so blunt in public but Ashton’s latest defensive rush of blood in the build-up to Australia’s try on Saturday did not go down well.
“We had a long chat about it ... he’s under a bit of pressure,” Lancaster said. “He has a real point to prove coming into this game, no doubt about it.
“To be an international it’s about the overall package. You have got to have an X-factor, whatever that is, and you’ve got to be good in all other areas such as high-ball receipt, kick-chase and defensive alignment. It’s the whole package for every player and that’s what we spoke to him about.”
Ashton has managed two tries since the 2011 World Cup and his outstanding support play has been increasingly intermittent at the highest level. This would be a perfect weekend to show he can still be a world-class poacher and the presence of Foden, his former Northampton team-mate, might just be a plus.