Rewarding times

Sky Sports News reporter Gail Davis ponders Stuart Lancaster's selection dilemma's ahead of England's Six Nations clash against Scotland at Twickenham

Last Updated: 31/01/13 11:39am

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Stuart Lancaster has always wanted to reward those players who have delivered and the only changes I can see to the side that beat New Zealand will because of injuries.

That means that Stuart Barnes will finally get his wish and Billy Twelvetrees will be in the centre in place of the injured Manu Tuilagi for England's opening Six Nations game against Scotland.

I think the loss of Tuilagi would be a bigger blow if he was going to perform like he did against New Zealand. I think that was the first time since the World Cup warm-up game against Ireland where he has really performed like we know he can.

However his injury gives Lancaster the chance to have a look at his other options, as I don't believe England can go to a World Cup with Tuilagi and Brad Barritt. You do need to accommodate Tuilagi in this side though and because he is not suited to the wing, it means you need to find a centre partner who compliments him - Twelvetrees may be that man.

All change at hooker?

I don't think anyone should underestimate the confidence that performance against New Zealand has given England and that is another reason why Lancaster will want to stick with the same players who played that game.

Because of that I think recalling hooker Dylan Hartley would be a big call. He is fit and playing well but Tom Youngs did really well in his absence.

Lancaster's loyalty to players is why Ben Foden has gone back to Northampton which surprised a few people. Lancaster wants to stick with Alex Goode at full-back after the Saracens star made his comeback for his club on Sunday. I watched him in that game and he looked good but it is only his first game back so I do think that will be an interesting call.

England do have Mike Brown there too though, so if Goode does have a few problems then Brown can take over with Strettle to come on off the bench.

Owen Farrell will remain in the No.10 jersey. Don't be fooled by that New Zealand score, this game is going to be a much tighter affair. The last few games against Scotland have only been decided by six or seven points so this is all about territory.

Biggest loss

For me Alex Corbisiero is the biggest loss for England as I feel that Joe Marler was found out a little bit against Australia - which could play right into Scotland's hands. Joe Launchbury will remain in the second row for England along with Geoff Parling and I do think the battle upfront is going to be a much sterner test than it was against New Zealand.

Scotland have picked a very gnarly front row and Dean Ryan would have been putting them through their paces. This Scotland pack is very good - David Denton, who was the star of last year's Six Nations, can only find a place on the bench. Jim Hamilton and Richie Gray are a pretty fearsome second row combination and will really be looking to test out Launchbury's credentials.

The back row will stay the same - it worked against New Zealand so why change it? There is that question mark over having an out and out 7, but who would you pick? No.8 is still a problem too. Ben Morgan burst on the scene last Six Nations and then kind of fell away and we saw a bit of Thomas Waldrom. I think it is far too early to make a call on Billy Vunipola but where are your No.8's? James Haskell has not quite got that subtlety to be a No.8, although he's great to come on as an impact player.

Looking ahead, what may be a bit of a selection headache for Lancaster is if Tom Croft gets back to his best - he offers something in the line-out that the likes of Tom Wood and Chris Robshaw don't. But he is still a long way from that - so why change?

Watch Stuart Lancaster announce his England team to face Scotland, Thurs, 10.30am on Sky Sports News


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