England Rugby World Cup squad: Burgess in, Cipriani out
The big winners and losers, including Easter and Morgan as Stuart Lancaster names his final 31 for next month's tournament
Danny Cipriani and Alex Corbisiero have been left out of England's squad for the Rugby World Cup, but centre Sam Burgess has made coach Stuart Lancaster's final 31, according to reports.
The biggest areas of debate have been the midfield and number eight roles, and deliberations "continued into the night", says The Times.
The selection of Burgess "represents the biggest selection gamble of Lancaster's tenure as England coach and it flies in the face of his usual policy, whereby players are told that they must earn their place in the national squad," says the Times.
The rugby league convert only made his union debut for Bath in November after moving from Australian NRL side the Rabbitohs. "Burgess initially struggled to make an impact as a centre in the 15-a-side game and finished last season for his club at flanker," says the Daily Telegraph. "[But] Lancaster appears have been swayed by the X-factor that Burgess would bring in terms of his wealth of world class rugby league experience and the ability to frighten attackers with his ferocious tackling and create space in attack with his offloading and decoy-running."
The Gloucester number eight broke his leg in January but has battled back to fitness and is tipped to have won his battle with Nick Easter for a spot in the squad.
Morgan "has done wonderfully well to return to rugby so soon after breaking a leg playing for his club in January but England cannot afford to kick off the tournament next month at anything less than a full gallop", warns The Guardian. But the Times reports that he came through a final training match on Wednesday "unscathed" and has been give the nod after "convincing the England management that he is fit enough".
The mercurial back was voted man of the match in England's defeat by France on Saturday, thanks to a try-scoring second-half cameo. But he has failed to make the cut.
The 27-year-old has suffered from the quality of the opposition in his favoured position. He "was always struggling to make the final cut with George Ford and Owen Farrell established as England's two principal fly-halves and Alex Goode offering specialist full-back back-up to Mike Brown", says the Guardian.
Cipriani hinted at his exclusion with a Facebook post thanking fans for their support.
One of the unlucky contenders for a berth in the centres, who has lost out to Burgess. "The final decision between Burgess and Burrell went down to the wire. They played opposite each other in yesterday’s internal trial match and the former rugby league man is understood to have prevailed," says the Times.
The Telegraph calls it a "devastating blow" for the 27-year-old Northampton star, "who has much greater experience on the international stage in union, having started in England’s midfield during the last two Six Nations campaigns and scored three tries from 12 appearances".
Another Northampton player to miss out is Lions prop Corbisiero, who has been troubled by injury and has been overtaken in the pecking order by Mako Vunipola and Joe Marler.
"Stuart Lancaster revealed last week that Corbisiero was suffering from sciatic pain, after coming on as a second-half replacement against France at Twickenham. The head coach suggested that time was running out for the renowned Saint to prove that he was in the right condition to push for World Cup inclusion and despite subsequent reports that he is on the mend, it appears that his recovery has not come quickly enough," reports the Daily Mail.
The 37-year-old Harlequins veteran mounted a late charge for inclusion but appears to have lost out to the fit-again Morgan.
Some believe that he has an outside chance of making the squad, but the Times says "Easter's only hope of competing at a third World Cup is as an injury replacement".
Another centre to miss out is Gloucester's Twelvetrees, who has 19 England caps and was called up to the Lions tour of Australia in 2013.
The 26-year-old has not been a fixture in the England squad but has more experience than those selected ahead of him. "England's four World Cup centres – Burgess, Slade, Jonathan Joseph and Brad Barritt – have the grand total of 35 caps between them," notes the Times.