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England shuffles midfield options for autumn test

October 16, 2013

England was forced to shuffle its options at center on Wednesday for the upcoming autumn internationals, promoting Joel Tomkins, Henry Trinder and Luther Burrell into an enlarged 34-man senior squad following injuries to first-choice pair Manu Tuilagi and Brad Barritt.

Tom Johnson replaced injured flanker Tom Croft in the only other change to the elite squad named on Aug. 1, while coach Stuart Lancaster revealed that prop Alex Corbisiero could play “some, if not all” of the matches against Australia, Argentina and New Zealand at Twickenham despite a knee problem.

“Inevitably there have been some injuries and there is still a big European weekend ahead (in the Heineken Cup),” Lancaster said. “But injures always create opportunities.”

Midfield has been Lancaster’s problem area since Barritt and Tuilagi were ruled out last month. Billy Twelvetrees, a likely starter at No. 12, and Kyle Eastmond were the other centers already in the senior squad but Tomkins, Trinder and Burrell come in as their reward for making strong starts to the season in the English Premiership and in Europe.

Trinder, currently sidelined with a hamstring injury, made the biggest leap as he wasn’t even in the second-string Saxons squad.

“He has started the season really well,” Lancaster said of the Gloucester center. “We have had a good look at it him and on merit, he deserves to be in the squad.”

Burrell, a dynamic inside center who could revert to No. 13 this autumn, has initially been included as injury cover but was challenged by Lancaster to “put a marker down in what is going to be a competitive selection leading into the Australia game” on Nov. 2.

England then plays Argentina and then the All Blacks on consecutive Saturdays.

Corbisiero, who played such a key role for the British and Irish Lions in their series win in Australia, has had fluid drained off his knee and has been recommended to have “a couple of weeks of off-feet rehab,” Lancaster said.

“It’s hoped he will come through and make some, if not all, of the games,” he added.

England is in buoyant mood after an impressive last 12 months under Lancaster, starting with a record win over New Zealand to finish off last year’s autumn tests, then a second-place finish behind Wales in the Six Nations before beating Argentina twice away on a summer tour.

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Squad:

Forwards: David Attwood, Dan Cole, Alex Corbisiero, Tom Johnson, Dylan Hartley, Matt Kvesic, Joe Launchbury, Courtney Lawes, Joe Marler, Ben Morgan, Geoff Parling, Chris Robshaw, Billy Vunipola, Mako Vunipola, David Wilson, Tom Wood, Tom Youngs.

Backs: Chris Ashton, Mike Brown, Freddie Burns, Luther Burrell, Danny Care, Lee Dickson, Kyle Eastmond, Owen Farrell, Toby Flood, Ben Foden, Alex Goode, Henry Trinder, Joel Tomkins, Billy Twelvetrees, Christian Wade, Marland Yarde, Ben Youngs.

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