Lancaster wants England hopefuls to grasp ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’

Stuart Lancaster has indicated to England’s World Cup hopefuls that there is still plenty to play for as he fine-tunes his squad for next year’s tournament.

England's head coach Stuart Lancaster.

Ahead of next month’s Autumn Internationals when New Zealand, Australia and South Africa visit Twickenham, Lancaster has laid down the gauntlet for any player on the periphery to make his task harder. Lancaster names his 33-man squad for the QBE Series a week tomorrow with a host of forwards – Tom Youngs, Alex Corbisiero, Geoff Parling, Mako Vunipola, Dan Cole and Tom Croft – injured.

Asked yesterday how close he was to finalising his squad, Lancaster said: “I am 80 per cent there, but the camp will be competitive and so it should be as the 2015 World Cup is a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

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England’s opening Test against New Zealand on November 8 is the fourth match in a row in which Lancaster’s men have faced the world champions, following their 3-0 series defeat in the summer.

“Our players learned on that tour what it takes to win at the highest level,” said Lancaster.

“New Zealand play right to the final whistle. It has been frustrating not to have won something.

“We are on track but we have got to be better at clearing the final hurdle. That pain sits inside you and drives you. As for this autumn, we will have to be at our very best.”