England manager Stuart Lancaster is emphasizing his side’s need to be the fittest team competing in the RWC this year in order to win it. In response to Lancaster, the 50-man England Rugby World Cup squad have gone into training camp at Pennyhill Park in Surrey with the goal of becoming the fittest team in the tournament by the time the global event kicks off in mid-September.
It will be interesting to learn who lines up in Lancaster’s starting XV against Wales. When asked what he meant about England being the fittest team Lancaster remarked, “They have to. In order to win the Rugby World Cup you have to be the fittest team. And the type of game we want to play demands it. It is probably the most important thing we need to get right. If you are not fit, everything else falls apart.”
England players Alex Corbisero, Dan Cole, Geoff Parling, Tom Youngs and Mako Vunipola are back in the training squad following injury. And Lancaster has plenty more ammunition including the likes of Anthony Watson and George Ford from Bath. Others at boot camp include Billy Vunipola, Ben Youngs, Marland Yarde, Tom Wood, Rob Webber, Richard Wigglesworth, David Wilson, Billy Twelvetrees, Henry Slade, Chris Robshaw, Ed Slater, Semesa Rokoduguni, and Jack Nowell.
England face a testing two-month stretch in training camp!
England first go to Pennyhill Park for three weeks with breaks on weekends. Then Lancaster plans to trim five players from his team and leave the UK for a two week (July 13-27) high-altitude stint at Vail Ski Resort in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains in the US.
After boot camp, the England training squad will be cut to the match-day 23 on just before the England v Wales game, with the final starting XV announced the Wednesday before the match.
England coach Lancaster has expressed his annoyance that he had to drop hooker Dylan Hartley from the training squad, after Hartley ruled himself out when he received a four-match suspension for head-butting an opponent. Centre Manu Tuilagi was dropped due to being convicted of shoving two police officers in a late night altercation. Danny Cipriani was recently arrested on suspicion of drunk driving and may also be dropped by Lancaster if Cipriani’s verdict is found guilty when revealed in August.
"It's not ideal that you're in that position where you're having to make decisions like that, particularly when they're high-quality players," Lancaster said.
Wing David Strettle withdrew due to his upcoming transfer to the French Top 14 side Clermont from Premiership champions Saracens. Strettle's place was taken by Semesa Rokoduguni.
Lancaster's side face Fiji in the Rugby World Cup 2015 opening match at Twickenham on September 18.