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Autumn Internationals: England head coach Stuart Lancaster in upbeat mood

Last Updated: 09/10/13 5:28pm

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Stuart Lancaster admits that losing centre pairing Brad Barritt and Manu Tuilagi to injury is disappointing ahead of the autumn internationals but is looking at the situation in a positive manner.

With the midfield duo missing for the games with Australia, Argentina and New Zealand at Twickenham, the England head coach believes this a perfect chance for somebody new to come in and stake their claim for a regular berth in the national team.

Both Barritt and Tuilagi have been important players for England in the past coupel of years and Lancaster acknowledges the gap they will leave in the squad.

"It's a big blow to lose both, to be honest," said Lancaster. "Brad's been exceptional for us and for Saracens as well, so to lose him and then Manu within a week of each other, particularly both in the same position - there's no doubt, it's a big hole to fill."

"You don't go through a World Cup campaign with a squad of 30 who remained uninjured. Look at New Zealand winning it with the fifth choice fly-half, so you need to find your depth and sometimes opportunities present themselves."
Stuart Lancaster

However, rather than use it as an excuse before the matches this November, Lancaster wants the players who come in for Barritt and Tuilagi to give him a selection headache for the Six Nations and beyond by showing their worth.

"I've always looked at these things in a positive light and think 'well this is a fantastic opportunity to see someone else,'" Lancaster added

"You don't go through a World Cup campaign with a squad of 30 who remained uninjured. Look at New Zealand winning it with the fifth choice fly-half, so you need to find your depth and sometimes opportunities present themselves."

Captaincy

Meanwhile, Lancaster will delay making a decision over his captain for the autumn internationals until late in the month.

Flankers Chris Robshaw and Tom Wood are competing for the role in what appears to be a straight shoot-out with the forthcoming two rounds of Heineken Cup action key to Lancaster's verdict.

England meet for a pre-autumn training camp in Leeds on October 21 and Lancaster sees no need to name his skipper before then.

"We have two big European weekends and I've consistently said you must select on form and fitness first. Injuries also play a part," he said.

"Equally there's no need to announce a captain early when it might influence what you're thinking selection wise.

"If you name the captain early then you're pretty much ruling out everybody else playing in that position and I want to keep competition for places high."

Lancaster insists the focus on the identity of the captain is misplaced with the senior players who assist him just as important.

"It's about having a really strong leadership group because it's an outdated model where you have one person who has sole responsibility for everyone," Lancaster said.

"All senior players have a role to play in the on-field decision making. It will be an important announcement but the most important thing is to have that strength of leadership across the field."

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