World Cup setback for Strettle as Johnson opts for rookie pair

International rookies Manu Tuilagi and Charlie Sharples are one step closer to Rugby World Cup selection after taking England’s training camp by storm.

Tuilagi, 20, and Sharples, 21, were singled out for praise by manager Martin Johnson after surviving yesterday’s first cut of the England training squad.

Johnson has confirmed that Joe Worsley, Thomas Waldrom, George Chuter, former Rotherham winger David Strettle and James Simpson-Daniel had all been released from the original 45-man party.

For that quintet, the World Cup dream looks over.

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But Sharples and Tuilagi are now vying to make their Test debuts in England’s back-to-back internationals against Wales over the next fortnight. Johnson will make the final cut on August 22 when he finalises his 30-man World Cup squad.

“We were confident they were worth their place or we wouldn’t have picked them. They’ve got this far, which shows we’ve been pleased with what they’ve done,” said Johnson.

“The next step will be selection and getting on the field in the next two weeks.”

Tuilagi has impressed the England management – and his new team-mates – since his promotion to the senior squad after being named Aviva Premiership young player of the year.

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The Leicester centre, whose four older brothers have all played for Samoa, capped an impressive performance in last Thursday’s internal trial match with a try.

Sharples, one of the stars of June’s Churchill Cup, was a late inclusion in the original squad as cover for Chris Ashton, who had just undergone a knee operation.

The Gloucester wing has leapfrogged Strettle and Simpson-Daniel in the pecking order.

Johnson continued: “I’ve been impressed (by Tuilagi). He’s a strong, powerful young man. He is an incredibly impressive physical specimen.

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“You saw the quality of Manu last season in the Premiership and I think he’s improved just being in this environment here, like all these guys do.

“He’s worked very, very hard and he’s just got better and better.”

Johnson will name his side for Saturday’s Investec international at Twickenham on Thursday but he is likely to be without Courtney Lawes and Ben Youngs, who are both injured.

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