England leave Wade wondering

Date published: May 21 2015

Even after going with a squad of 50 players England head coach Stuart Lancaster will still face some queries about his selections for the World Cup.

The two non-picks that are bound to generate the most discussion are in fact not Steffon Armitage and Nick Abendanon, the last two European Players of the Year, but Dave Ewers and Christian Wade.

Armitage and Abendanon's fate was already sealed when the "exceptional circumstances" rule was clarified to only refer to injuries, although their outcome was arguably decided the second they decided to head to the Top 14.

Whether England would have benefited from having them in the squad is now irrelevant.

Ewers and Wade are different matters – young talents both viewed as slightly raw but who equally had a chance of making the 50-man squad.

Keeping out Ewers is disappointing but understandable, because England are blessed with back row stocks and the two players who most likely pipped Ewers to the post, Calum Clark and Matt Kvesic, have both had outstanding campaigns as emphasised by picking up Player of the Year awards from their clubs.

Ewers is a destructive ball carrier full of power and with a great work-rate. He offers great ball security at the breakdown and no compromise in defence. His form has been hot as the season has come to a close. It's a very tough call, but the Zimbabwe-born 24-year-old's time will surely come.

Wade is another matter. Lancaster revealed that the Wasps flyer and Ewers had just missed out, yet while Ewers faced a number of versatile back rowers, Wade is in behind six other wingers.

Of those six are two players with excellent domestic form but mixed records at Test level, David Strettle and Chris Ashton, while two others have had mixed seasons but both have shown flashes of brilliance over the last two years in Marland Yarde and Jonny May.

Yarde, since his move to Harlequins, has been subdued, while May's decision-making ultimately cost him his place ahead of the Six Nations.

The word is that Wade's omission comes down to his size in defence given he's only 173cm and 81kg, but equally he is putting together a catalogue of unbelievable tries and is one of the Premiership's premier attacking threats.

If Wade is unable to make it past six wingers now, as close as he might have been, the road to representing England again feels like a long one. Strettle is the only winger in that group over the age of 28.

According to Lancaster the door isn't shut on either Ewers or Wade, but making the World Cup squad of 31 now is a longshot although both should get a chance to impress against the Barbarians.

Otherwise few arguments, as you'd expect from an enlarged 50-man squad. Manu Tuilagi's absence already feels like old news, his hopes of making the World Cup going up in smoke last week.

Semesa Rokoduguni's treatment by England is more baffling, with just one cap this name against New Zealand he is seemingly now nowhere near selection. That may hasten any potential move from Bath to Clermont, as was reported by the French press earlier this week.

Ben Morgan's continuing rehabilitation from his broken leg will be key, possibly opening the door for Ewers or perhaps prolific teammate Thomas Waldrom, while the trio of Joe Simpson, Tom Croft and Ben Foden are all on the road to recovery to try and find their way back into consideration, something Lancaster acknowledged was possible before August 31.

What will be most intriguing now is how the likes of Luke Cowan-Dickie, Maro Itoje, Henry Slade, Ed Slater and Elliot Daly push the more senior players to make the final cut, along with how England use Sam Burgess whether as a flanker or centre.

Excluding Burgess would have been a poor call, because while still learning the sport he brings an invaluable winning mentality and plenty of power.

All the answers will come soon enough, but by authoritatively addressing and closing any discussion on overseas players, while clarifying why those who just missed selection were left out, Lancaster was impressive.

The hard work though starts now for a squad with an average age of 26 and seven uncapped players in their ranks.

by Ben Coles