Strettle back for England

Strettle back for England


The side he selected is the same starting line-up who narrowly lost to Wales and was originally retained to face France, only for wing Charlie Sharples to be drafted in as a late replacement for the injured Dave Strettle.

Strettle returns for Saturday's game that will bring the curtain down on the championship with Sharples dropping out of the squad. Hooker Lee Mears replaces injured Rob Webber on the bench in the only other change.

The team shows three changes from the first two games - away wins over Scotland and Italy - as Lancaster stayed true to his stated principles of putting the foundations in place to build towards the 2015 World Cup rather than trying to fashion any sort of wins in an effort to boost his own job prospects.

Six weeks ago his squad was made up largely of debutants and international fledglings and led by a new captain, Chris Robshaw, with one cap to his name.

However, they have repaid Lancaster's faith and quickly gelled into a team that appears unified, disciplined and determined - qualities often absent during the painful World Cup campaign.

That they go into their final game with an outside chance of retaining the title is a massive bonus for Lancaster, who appears to be in a straight fight with former South Africa and Italy coach Nick Mallett to become the permanent successor to Martin Johnson.

To win the title England would need to beat Ireland after a French win in Wales - with the two results combining to overturn a 38-point differential currently in Wales's favour.

It is an unlikely scenario with in-form Wales gunning for a Grand Slam and England having lost seven of their last eight Six Nations games against Ireland but whatever the outcome on Saturday Lancaster has already won many admirers.

New RFU CEO Ian Ritchie said recently that Lancaster's chances of landing the job would not be decided solely on England's Six Nations performances but it would be a brave man to dispense with the likeable northerner if they were to finish on the high of a good win over the Irish.

Lancaster has introduced a whole new attitude to the squad, along with a host of new faces, and the supporters like what they see.

The team are a long way from the finished article, and so they should be with so many vastly inexperienced players involved. But their performances have certainly satisfied Lancaster's demand for a "pride in the shirt" as well as achieving the rare feat in recent years of getting their fans out of their seats with some glimpses of exciting rugby.

"It seems like yesterday when we got together in Leeds in January and began a new journey for England rugby," Lancaster said.

"Graham (Rowntree), Andy (Farrell) and myself firmly believe in this group of players and the direction we are going.

"Saturday is another step on that road and we are looking forward to coming home to a packed Twickenham with its special atmosphere and crowd."

Although Ireland are without injured stalwarts Brian

O'Driscoll and Paul O'Connell they are an experienced side who have got used to beating England, not least at Twickenham where they have won three of their last four championship games.

Their only defeat in the last eight meetings between the teams came at Twickenham in 2008 - Brian Ashton's final contribution before he was sacked - while a crushing 24-8 Irish win in Dublin last year ended England's grand slam hopes and took the edge off their title celebrations.

They did, though, beat Ireland convincingly 20-9 in a Dublin World Cup warm-up match in August, something Lancaster will no doubt remind his players of amid the welter of depressing championship statistics.

Ireland flanker Stephen Ferris stoked up the atmosphere when he said of England on Wednesday: "They are a good side and are full of winners but when they lose they don't like it.

"Hopefully they will be bad losers on Saturday."

England: 15-Ben Foden, 14-Chris Ashton, 13-Manu Tuilagi, 12-Brad Barritt, 11-David Strettle; 10-Owen Farrell, 9-Lee Dickson; 1-Alex Corbisiero, 2-Dylan Hartley, 3-Dan Cole, 4-Mouritz Botha, 5-Geoff Parling, 6-Tom Croft, 7-Chris Robshaw, 8-Ben Morgan

Replacements: 16-Lee Mears 17-Matt Stevens, 18-Tom Palmer, 19-Phil Dowson, 20-Ben Youngs, 21-Charlie Hodgson, 22-Mike Brown

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