Lancaster keeping options open
England coach looking to keep fly-halves hungry
Last Updated: 25/05/12 10:40pm
England coach Stuart Lancaster insists the number 10 jersey remains up for grabs ahead of this summer's three-Test series against South Africa.
Saracens' Owen Farrell is the favourite for the role after excelling in England's last three RBS 6 Nations matches, keeping out Toby Flood and Charlie Hodgson as he guided the team to victories over France and Ireland.
Farrell has been moved back to inside centre in Sunday's non-cap game against the Barbarians with Saracens' Charlie Hodgson to start at fly-half.
"If you define the squad early, you potentially shut the door on a lot of players."
Stuart Lancaster on number 10 jersey Quotes of the week
England expect Flood to be fit to travel with the squad to South Africa after he was named on the bench for Leicester's Aviva Premiership final against Harlequins on Saturday.
Lancaster is keen to see how Hodgson fares in the role against the Barbarians, although Farrell is expected to secure some playing time in the position in the second half as the coach seeks to main healthy competition for places.
"This is an opportunity for Charlie to put a marker down but there is an opportunity for Owen to move to fly-half in the second half," explained Lancaster.
"It is a likely scenario that Owen will be seen in that 10 role. He finished the Six Nations in that position. It is up to the others to prove they should be wearing it.
"They all offer different things. Charlie can play flat to the line, Toby engages defenders and brings huge experience and Owen has a good core skill set and his temperament is excellent.
"Charlie had one of his most enjoyable seasons with Saracens, he loved being involved with England in the Six Nations and he is desperate to start for England in South Africa.
"I want to fuel that motivation. If you define the squad early, you potentially shut the door on a lot of players. I will make clear when I meet the players where I see them in the pecking order - but I am open minded."
Hodgson will be 34 by the time England host the World Cup in 2015, which leaves him at the upper end of the age bracket for selection.
But whether Hodgson remains in the England set-up for the next three years or not, Lancaster highlighted the value of his role in the building of that World Cup team.
Saracens recruited Hodgson last year to help bring on young players like Farrell - and he is performing the same role for England.
"There is a group of players I have spoken to - Lee Mears, Tom Palmer, Charlie - who are hugely important in that group at the moment," Lancaster said.
"I was talking to Freddie Burns about his experience this week and he said it was unbelievable to learn from Charlie Hodgson. His impact on players like Freddie and Owen Farrell is immeasurable.
"I won't be drawing a line under his England career."