It’s that time in January again when the England Elite and Saxons squads are announced and as has always tended to be the case under Stuart Lancaster, the balance of change and continuity does seem to be thought-through and promising.
Or maybe he wanted to change even more but the tedious EPS regulations wouldn’t let him.
Either way, there are a few players who seem to be in the squad only because they were already there – rather than being part of any future plans.
The likes of Croft, Johnson, Waldrom, and even Haskell in the back row will not – I’d imagine – still be around in 2015. But to replace them now with the likes of Kvesic, Fearns and Vunipola would be rash.
The likes of Parling, Lawes, Robshaw and Wood seem like household names in the England set-up, but they are actually very inexperienced and need time to develop as a unit.
Having seasoned campaigners in reserve, as opposed to more promising youngsters, makes sense in the short-term.
Similarly, the selection of David Strettle has baffled/angered many people, who would favour one of the Wasps wingers.
But it looks as if the Sarries winger is only keeping the seat warm for Christian Wade (or maybe Gloucester’s Charlie Sharples), so in that context picking a relatively experienced international is perfectly sensible.
And it is not as if the blooding process has stopped – note the promotions of Vunipola, Youngs and Launchbury in the forwards, and Burns and Twelvetrees in the backs.
From a Sarries point of view, Lancaster’s selections are working out very nicely. The likes of Farrell, Barritt and Goode are being correctly rewarded – although the latter’s shoulder injury has come at a bad time.
Chris Ashton will be acutely aware of the competition he now faces coming through the ranks – Wade and Sharples especially – even more so given the tendency to pick two full-backs.
Given the calibre of young back five players emerging in the Premiership, Mouritz Botha will have no complaints about his demotion.
For me, though, George Kruis (and Matt Garvey) really need to come into the Saxons, as they are two particular players I can see breaking into the elite squad.
Kruis’ apprenticeship under Steve Borthwick has really paid off in recent weeks. He always had a fantastic work ethic and made loads of positive contributions; over the summer he put on what looks like a couple of stone to help in those collisions.
Now he is being given greater responsibilities – running the lineout, controlling mauls, and commanding restarts. He has excelled in all three areas; and at 22 years old, there is far more to come.
Will Fraser’s superb season to date has been rewarded with a Saxons call-up.
His traditional 7 work over the ball has been exemplary, and again he has an astonishing work rate.
Outplaying Chris Robshaw at the Stoop earlier this season, and then Tom Wood in Milton Keynes recently, testify to his form – another with a great chance at further honours.
Richard Wigglesworth can rightly feel aggrieved at not being called up from the Saxons, but hopefully he will soon be joined there by Ben Spencer.
The 20 year-old won’t need much game time in the next few months to convince the coaches of his potential.
And finally, it is great to see Joel Tomkins’ success in the 15-man code acknowledged with a Saxons call.
Given the lacklustre form of Jonathan Joseph recently, having him and Elliot Daly showing their wares in the 13 shirt can only help England’s squad depth.
The Wigan man has clearly worked very hard getting up to scratch in defence, and his potential as a strike runner and offloader is being seen more and more every week at Sarries.
So for the England squad in general, and the Saracens contribution to it, form and potential are being recognised, and there will be even more new faces in the development tour to Argentina this summer.
Let’s just hope we can do the business in the Six Nations.