Who should England take to the RWC

Date published: August 25 2015

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Stuart Lancaster has had plenty of time to decide on his final group of 31, but that won't have made the process any easier.

Each of the 39 players left from his original 50-man group have had a chance to persuade the England head coach of their credentials in the last two weeks against France.

Paris was meant to be a convincing outing from the relatively first XV. Instead, England were miles better at Twickenham and beaten up at the Stade de France.

Lancaster's job is tough but this is where he earns his keep, and the choices in front of him in some areas are incredibly difficult to make, but may define his time in charge.

Here is who should make the cut.

Props

Joe Marler, Mako Vunipola, Dan Cole and David Wilson are all nailed on which leaves who travels as England's fifth prop. Alex Corbisiero when fully fit is England's best option at loosehead and can cover tighthead too, but another injury off the bench at Twickenham has flared up old worries about his durability. The other option is Kieran Brookes, the Northampton tighthead. Corbisiero is a gamble, but one with a huge payoff. It's a risk England should take.

Hookers

Swinging the axe on Dylan Hartley was the right call but it's coming back to hurt England with their issues at the line-out. Tom Youngs, even after a poor outing in Paris, is still the number one. Rob Webber should go based on his greater experience which leaves a shootout for the final spot. Luke Cowan-Dickie has huge potential but was poor on his debut and on that basis, Jamie George (the man who replaced Hartley) could sneak in.

Locks

Lancaster's two starters are nailed on in Joe Launchbury and Courtney Lawes, who can cover six, leaving two free spots behind them. Dave Attwood's physicality has made him a useful player for England over the last two years and he offers real edge. Which leaves one open slot. Nick Easter's flexibility as a second-rower appeals and he offers a cool head, something the coaches admire, while he looked sharp in Paris. But, Geoff Parling is the better option and a Lions Test lock at that. George Kruis also drops out.

Back-row

The easiest area to select. Chris RobshawBilly VunipolaTom Wood are all certainties while Ben Morgan might be short of match fitness but has to go even so. James Haskell completes the set, having established himself as England's starting six during the Six Nations. Calum Clark misses out.

Scrum-half

Ben Youngs remains the starter based on his excellent Six Nations campaign and is well supported by Richard Wigglesworth, the best kicker England have at nine. Danny Care's impressive cameo last weekend was a welcome sight too given what a weapon he can be for England with the ball in hand.

Fly-half

George Ford and Owen Farrell's battle for the number ten jersey isn't quite over but both are hugely significant players for England and genuine talents. There has never been any doubt that these two would go, only over who gets the start, which after Farrell's surge towards the end of last season is still up for debate.

Centres

Two are definitely in. Brad Barritt has a huge role for England in terms of defence and leadership. Jonathan Joseph meanwhile was outstanding in the Six Nations and combining with Ford gave England a whole new dynamic. Choosing two out of the final three is Lancaster's greatest dilemma, partly because Henry Slade expanded the conversation with a classy performance on his debut. His versatility makes him a World Cup squad dream despite his inexperience. Which leaves Sam Burgess and Luther Burrell with Billy Twelvetrees out of contention. The Northampton centre has played 12 and 13 for England in the last two Six Nations. Burgess offers huge power and leadership, but sorely lacks experience. He is though undeniably special. Sam Burgess should go.

Back three

Anthony Watson and Jack Nowell are both in as is Jonny May, who backed up his billing as England's best performer in camp with a great outing at Twickenham.

Mike Brown looks fit and healthy after his concussion issues, if not a little rusty, while Alex Goode was phenomenal in the first warm-up game at Twickenham and is undervalued. Danny Cipriani did catch the eye in Paris off the bench and took his try very well, but is it too late? Or more importantly, is he really a better option than one of Brown or Goode? His comeback from obscurity has been fun to watch and reminded us all what a talent he is, but there's no space.

England's proposed World Cup squad: Joe Marler, Mako Vunipola, Alex Corbisiero, Dan Cole, David Wilson, Tom Youngs, Rob Webber, Jamie George, Joe Launchbury, Courtney Lawes, Dave Attwood, Geoff Parling, Chris Robshaw (c), Tom Wood, James Haskell, Billy Vunipola, Ben Morgan, Ben Youngs, Richard Wigglesworth, Danny Care, George Ford, Owen Farrell, Brad Barritt, Sam Burgess, Jonathan Joseph, Henry Slade, Jack Nowell, Anthony Watson, Jonny May, Mike Brown, Alex Goode.

Potentially missing out: Kieran Brookes, Luke Cowan-Dickie, George Kruis, Calum Clark, Nick Easter, Billy Twelvetrees, Luther Burrell, Danny Cipriani.

by Ben Coles

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