England coach Stuart Lancaster has admitted that his Rugby World Cup squad is one for the future, after picking an inexperienced 31-man party. Henry Slade, Sam Burgess and Jamie George have been included, each having made just one international appearance before the showcase tournament.
The trio made their England debuts in the warm-up games against France at Twickenham and the Stade de France and are included in a squad which will attempt to reclaim the Webb Ellis Cup on home turf. Luther Burrell and Danny Cipriani were among the high profile omissions but Lancaster feels that Slade's inclusion in particular is with a view to forming a core of players for the next generation.
"Henry has a calmness about him and it is exciting because you have Jonathan Joseph, Anthony [Watson] and this generation of players should be around for 2019," said Lancaster, of his squad.
"There is no doubt that he has advanced his cause to a point in this camp where, if you'd asked me at the start I would have said 'he's a talent player but to go from a good chance to in is very impressive'."
The inclusion of Burgess comes just nine months since he made his debut for Bath after switching codes from rugby league. Burgess edges out Burrell after proving himself to be more adaptable while his physicality also impressed Lancaster as the selection deadline loomed.
"To win international games you need a balance of physicality and bulk players, finishers and obviously defence and attack and kicking," he added. "Sam obviously brings the physicality."
"At 116kg he is as quick as any of the centres, certainly as quick as Luther. He is powerful, he understands how to read defences very well. He is an aggressive tackler but one of his attributes that goes unnoticed is how good he is at running lines."
Burgess has come in for criticism from former England captain Will Carling and ex-Ireland centre Brian O'Driscoll, neither of whom believe the 2014 NRL Premiership winner with the South Sydney Rabbitohs is up to the demands of international rugby union. But Lancaster is unperturbed by the comments and believes he knows his players better than anyone.
Lancaster said: "The beauty of England and the options we have is it creates great debate doesn't it? Everyone is entitled to their opinion and what matters is what we see in camp and we see it day in, day out. You're seeing them against each other and the way the training sessions have been constructed you can make an accurate judgement."