LONDON Jan 11 England cut their final
ties to the glory days of 2003 and did their best to distance
themselves from the debacle of 2011 as caretaker coach Stuart
Lancaster ushered in the latest new dawn with a squad short on
caps but long on youthful ambition.
Lancaster might have been appointed only for the Six Nations
but he has taken drastic action in unloading a host of
experienced players from a squad that now boasts nine uncapped
players, another four with one appearance and little of the
baggage came to weigh so heavily on their predecessors.
Mike Tindall, an MBE hero of the 2003 World Cup-winning team
but the central figure in the off-field mayhem that accompanied
England's 2011 campaign, slipped off the international scene
with barely an eyebrow raised.
Tindall had originally been dropped from the squad for
misleading the Rugby Football Union (RFU) about his nightclub
antics in New Zealand and after being re-instated on appeal,
Lancaster reopened the trapdoor at the first opportunity.
Sliding into international oblivion alongside him were Nick
Easter and Mark Cueto, both into their 30s, while Shontayne Hape
was also jettisoned five months after former coach Martin
Johnson ridiculed reporters for daring to question his faith in
the solid but unspectacular rugby league convert centre.
Although Tindall's exclusion was widely predicted it was
perhaps indicative of Lancaster's determination to "draw a line
in the sand" that it barely merited a mention when he announced
the 32-man squad at junior club Leeds West Park.
The new coach had shifted England's temporary training base
there in part to help them "reconnect" with the public who had
become heartily sick not only of the endless problems
surrounding the national team but by their rigid and often
turgid performances when they did finally get on the pitch.
The retirement of Jonny Wilkinson, Lewis Moody and Steve
Thompson further emphasised the new-leaf nature of the squad,
who will get their first taste of action away to Scotland on
"It's about a new era for English rugby," said Lancaster,
known throughout the game as a straight-talking northerner who
has already shown a sign of the standards he now expects by
dropping scrumhalf Danny Care for the Six Nations after he was
"We want to play a game that excites people," he added,
which will be music to the ears of England fans forced for so
long to endure, with the odd exception, some of the dullest fare
served up in the name of professional sport.
Lancaster has seen the next generation closer than most in
his role as head of elite player development and coach of the
second-string Saxons team and if he is taking a risk with his
wholesales changes, it is a calculated one.
"The new lads have proven themselves in big games for their
clubs in Europe, the likes of Owen Farrell, Charlie Sharples
these boys have played big games, Mike Brown is in great form,"
"I always felt that January 2012 was going to be a defining
moment about where we were going in the future and hopefully
with the selection that we've done we've picked a side that's
exciting, talented and gets us back where we want to be.
"The best part of the job so far for me was phoning those
new guys and feeling that energy down the phone. Now it's about
channelling that energy and enthusiasm in the right way and
getting ourselves on the pitch ready to go at Murrayfield."
With Toby Flood set to miss that game through injury
Lancaster might buck his trend by starting with Charlie Hodgson
at flyhalf but he will be surrounded by youthful enthusiasm.
Hodgson's Saracens centre partners Farrell, 20, and Brad
Barritt could both make their debuts outside him while
Harlequins fullback Brown is in line to add to the three caps he
won in 2007-08.
Pacey winger Sharples is a probable starter for the first
time as Chris Ashton suddenly looks a gnarled veteran on the
other wing less than two years after his debut.
The back row will also have a new look with Tom Wood,
favourite to take over from Moody as captain, one-cap Chris
Robshaw and uncapped trio Calum Clark, Phil Dowson and Ben
Morgan vying for a slot along with the surviving Tom Croft.
With places up for grabs all over the front five too - not
to mention a coaching team hoping to make an irresistible case
to be kept on permanently - it could be an exciting few months.
(Editing by Ed Osmond; to query or comment on this story email