Lancaster provides chance for players to impress

Stuart Lancaster has revealed how he showed his England players videos of their past five victories just 24 hours after their Six Nations grand slam hopes came crashing to earth.

England's Rob Webber

England were thrashed by Wales in the title decider in Cardiff on March 16 as their early promise in the tournament was blown apart by the eventual champions.

Nearly two months on and Lancaster has named a youthful-looking squad for the fixture with the Barbarians and the June tour to South America as the healing process continues.

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Lancaster has chosen 11 uncapped players in his 32-man squad with 10 of his stalwarts on British and Irish Lions duty and five more key players rested and on standby for Warren Gatland’s Lions.

Captain Chris Robshaw and Leeds-born Danny Care have been given the summer off, as have Chris Ashton, Toby Flood and Brad Barritt.

Despite being weakened, Lancaster sees the two-Test series with Argentina as key to the development of his squad as he bloods a number of youngsters in the cauldron of Test match rugby.

England were found desperately wanting in such an environment eight weeks ago, with Lancaster admitting that he was determined to give his players a positive note to leave the Six Nations on.

Before his players returned to their clubs, he sat them through their wins over Scotland, Ireland, France and Italy, plus the destruction of New Zealand that prompted their title challenge.

“It was difficult to lose the grand slam and triple crown in one go,” said Lancaster, who will not link up with his full squad again until the autumn internationals in November. “We met at 11am the day after and I tried to put the defeat into perspective.

“I showed them the previous five games that we’d won and where we were in terms of our international experience.

“From my point of view, it was about putting the defeat into perspective as difficult as it was at the time.”

In the absence of Robshaw, Northampton’s Tom Wood will captain England for a summer that begins against the Barbarians at Twickenham on Sunday, May 26. That game will be played without the players from the Premiership final, played 24 hours earlier.

England then play a CONSUR XV – representing the South American nations – in Montevideo, Uruguay, on June 2, and Tests against Argentina in Salta six days later and Buenos Aires on June 15.

Lancaster added: “With Chris being rested and Dylan (Hartley) going with the Lions, Tom was the natural choice for me.

“I am sure he will do a fantastic job as he has the respect of all the players and management and we are looking forward to other leaders developing in the absence of some senior players.

“He hasn’t captained too many times in the past, but I’ve worked with him lots for the Saxons and obviously in the seniors now.

“He’s got great leadership qualities, he’s a winner, he wants to win.

“We need that type of personality leading the side from the front in what is going to be a pretty hostile environment in Argentina.”

On the rested players, he added: “Physically and mentally some have had a tough season and to give them a break will do us, and them, good.

“When I think this time next year we’re heading off on a three-Test tour of New Zealand, it’s probably the last chance they’ll get.”

Among the 11 uncapped players is Calum Clark, who gets a third chance to stake his claim for a regular place in the England team. The 23-year-old former Leeds Carnegie flanker from Stockton-on-Tees has twice been a member of Lancaster’s squad only to be cut on both occasions.

Rugby league converts Kyle Eastmond and Joel Tomkins are also in the squad.

Part of the returning party is Pocklington-born hooker Rob Webber of Bath, who won all his three caps under Lancaster in last year’s Six Nations.

He has had two shoulder operations since his last international against France last March, but is back in the squad after a stellar season for Bath.

“It’s great to be involved again,” said Webber, 26. “The shoulder injury was a real setback but it’s great for my career that I’m back involved and it’s up to me now to seize the opportunity.”

David Strettle, the former Rotherham Titans wing, will be one of the key attacking threats for the England.

Lancaster said: “We’re really looking forward to this tour and we’ve selected a young and exciting side which I’m sure will do the country proud in a tough series of matches.

“The key principles in selection were threefold: first and foremost to win the games, but also to develop strength in depth and more options in certain positions, and to give one or two players a physical and mental break.

“We feel we’ve got the balance right and have given places to a number of players who have shone in the Aviva Premiership this season, one or two who have been on the fringes for a while, and several players who have been involved over the last year or so. This is everyone’s chance to step up.”