Burgess takes first step towards World Cup

Sam Burgess training with his Bath team mates
Sam Burgess training with his Bath team mates
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England have named wings Chris Ashton and David Strettle in a 50-man World Cup training squad that also includes Dewsbury-born rugby league convert Sam Burgess.

Saracens pair Ashton and Strettle, the Aviva Premiership’s most clinical finishers, have been given the chance to press their claims to selection for the global showpiece this autumn.

Ashton was last capped during the summer tour to New Zealand a year ago while Strettle has not been involved since June 2013 after slipping behind Jack Nowell, Jonny May, Anthony Watson, Marland Yarde and Christian Wade in the pecking order.

Wade, however, is absent from the 50 who will gather at Pennyhill Park on June 22 to begin preparations for the home World Cup, which opens against Fiji at Twickenham on September 18.

As expected, there is no place for Steffon Armitage or Nick Abendanon with head coach Stuart Lancaster refusing to activate the ‘exceptional circumstances’ contingency that would enable him to select overseas-based players.

Burgess features in England’s summer plans just six months into his union education, although doubt persists over what position he will be asked to fill.

Bath have picked Burgess at blindside flanker in recent weeks and the 26-year-old has responded by playing his best rugby in the new code, but Lancaster is still thought to regard him as an inside centre.

England are short on midfield firepower after Manu Tuilagi was suspended by Lancaster until January for assaulting a taxi driver and two female police offers.

Other than Burgess, there are five uncapped players in Mario Itoje, Henry Slade, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Elliot Daley and Calum Clarke.

“We are excited to name this extended squad which allows us to look at a wide group of players who have been pushing hard for selection in training with us or playing well for their clubs this season,” Lancaster said.

“It’s great to be able to include Alex Corbisiero, Joe Launchbury, Ben Morgan, Ed Slater and David Wilson, who missed the Six Nations because of injury and are close to returning to play or have recently begun playing again.

“There are a lot of experienced internationals within the squad with the likes of Chris Ashton and David Strettle, who are in great form, returning.”

England training squad: C Ashton (Saracens), D Attwood (Bath Rugby), B Barritt (Saracens), K Brookes, (Newcastle Falcons), M Brown (Harlequins), L Burrell (Northampton Saints), S Burgess (Bath Rugby), D Care (Harlequins), D Cipriani (Sale Sharks), C Clark (Northampton Saints), D Cole (Leicester Tigers), A Corbisiero (Northampton Saints), L Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs), E Daly (Wasps), L Dickson (Northampton Saints), K Eastmond (Bath Rugby), N Easter (Harlequins), O Farrell (Saracens), G Ford (Bath Rugby), A Goode (Saracens), D Hartley (Northampton Saints), J Haskell (Wasps), M Itoje (Saracens), J Joseph (Bath Rugby), C Lawes (Northampton Saints), J Launchbury (Wasps), G Kruis (Saracens), M Kvesic (Gloucester Rugby), J Marler (Harlequins), J May (Gloucester Rugby), S Myler (Northampton Saints), B Morgan (Gloucester Rugby), M Mullan (Wasps), J Nowell (Exeter Chiefs), G Parling (Leicester Tigers), C Robshaw (Harlequins), H Slade (Exeter Chiefs), E Slater (Leicester Tigers), D Strettle (Saracens), B Twelvetrees (Gloucester Rugby), M Vunipola (Saracens), B Vunipola (Saracens), A Watson (Bath Rugby), R Webber (Bath Rugby), R Wigglesworth (Saracens), D Wilson (Bath Rugby), T Wood (Northampton Saints), M Yarde (Harlequins), B Youngs (Leicester Tigers), T Youngs (Leicester Tigers).