Five players pushing hard for a place in Stuart Lancaster's England squad for the QBE Autumn Internationals
By Tony Curtis - Follow me on Twitter: @SkysportsTC. Last Updated: 24/10/12 11:35am
England will confirm their 32-man squad for the QBE Autumn Internationals on Thursday, with coach Stuart Lancaster expected to make a surprise call or two.
England will face Fiji, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand at Twickenham as they look to build on a promising start to life under Lancaster.
The former Leeds coach has not been afraid to give players the chance as he looks to shape his squad in the long run-up to the 2015 Rugby World Cup - and there are a host of rising stars hoping to get a phone call for the four Tests.
Ahead of the announcement we look at five players who have been banging on the door for selection...
Mako Vunipola (Saracens)
The son of former Tonga captain Fe'ao, Vunipola is poised to get fast-tracked into the squad due to injury to Alex Corbisiero. The Saracens front-rower, who has already represented England Under-18s and Under-20s, has been in superb form this season after putting his injury-ravaged 2011-12 campaign behind him. Born in New Zealand, Vunipola earned his spurs at Bristol before moving to Saracens, where he has continued his meteoric rise. It isn't beyond comprehension that his younger brother Billy, the 19-year-old back-row, could also force his way into the reckoning after impressing for Wasps.
Matt Kvesic (Worcester)
The Worcester back-rower just seems to get better and better. Although just 20, he has already racked up 45 appearances for the Warriors and earned international honours through England's age-grade ranks, captaining the Under-18s. He was one of the stars as England reached the final of the IRB Junior World Championship in 2011, while his absence through injury for this year's tournament was a massive blow. He has caught the eye for the Warriors again this season and inclusion in England's training squad would be the next step in his development.
Freddie Burns (Gloucester)
Toby Flood's return to form could not have come at a worse time for Burns, who is pushing hard for his chance with the senior England side. Burns has already been mentioned by Lancaster and his assistant Andy Farrell after the Gloucester man picked up from where he left off last season. With a wealth of natural talent, he could well be the man England need to get their back division firing. Happy to play on the gain-line, Burns is a fly-half who likes to play with the ball in hand rather than kick the leather off it. Burns, though, faces intense competition from Flood and Owen Farrell for a chance to wear the coveted No 10 jersey.
Joe Launchbury (London Wasps)
The versatile Wasps forward could have already made his international debut this summer but for injury. Launchbury flew to South Africa with the senior squad but was ruled out with a knee problem. Back to full fitness now, the 21-year-old has become the heartbeat of the Wasps pack and he is determined to make up for lost time. A leading member of the England Under-20s side that went on to reach the IRB Junior World Championship final in 2011, Launchbury has the ability to play across the back five in the pack. The size of a second row and the dynamism and mobility of a blindside, Launchbury has a growing band of fans backing him for international honours.
Tom Youngs (Leicester Tigers)
The Leicester No 2 was a surprise inclusion in England's squad to tour South Africa in the summer - having not started a Premiership match at hooker. Youngs began life as a centre and went on to win England Under-20s honours in the midfield, however it is the transformation into a front-rower that has kick-started his career. He played in the two midweek games in South Africa and is now likely to provide cover for Dylan Hartley during the autumn Tests - especially as Rob Webber is sidelined. He has made the No 2 jersey his own at Leicester this season, starting eight matches and ousting former international George Chuter from the position.