Stuart Lancaster selects his Rugby World Cup training squad with Maro Itoje one of a number of young players fast-tracked into the senior ranks.
World Rugby U20 Championship 2014-winning captain Maro Itoje has graduated to the senior England set-up after being named in Stuart Lancaster's extended 50-man Rugby World Cup 2015 training squad on Wednesday.
Itoje's inclusion caps a remarkable rise for the imposing Saracens second-row cum flanker who only last year was playing in the third tier of English rugby while on loan at Old Albanian RFC.
Having led England to glory in the World Rugby U20 Championship in New Zealand last June, Itoje's fast-track to the top has gathered pace and he has led Saracens to the Anglo-Welsh Cup title as well as been nominated for the Land Rover Discovery of the Season award after helping Saracens reach the Premiership play-offs again.
If Itoje makes the final cut for RWC 2015, he will become the youngest forward to appear for England in the tournament's history, and their third youngest player in any position behind Manu Tuilagi and Mathew Tait.
Itoje is joined in the 50-man group, which will be whittled down to 31 for the Rugby World Cup prior to the 31 August deadline, by 20 other former England under-20 players – 17 of whom have been capped by their country at senior level.
"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," said Lancaster.
"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 and it's also good to have young players like Luke Cowan-Dickie, Elliot Daly, Maro Itoje and Henry Slade in there who have come through our player development pathway and had great seasons for their clubs.
"Ben Foden, Joe Simpson and Tom Croft have not been included at this stage due to ongoing rehabilitation from injury but will hopefully come into consideration nearer the tournament.
"A number of this 50-man squad, such as Joe Launchbury, Elliot Daly, Danny Cipriani and Marland Yarde will be involved in the England XV side playing the Barbarians on May 31 following the Premiership semi-finals. There will also be opportunities for the likes of Dave Ewers and Christian Wade who just missed out on the initial selection but could come back in further down the line."
England's training squad will meet up at Pennyhill Park on 22 June to begin preparing for the tournament which starts against Fiji at Twickenham on 18 September. Before that opening match, they will face warm-ups against France home and away and Ireland at Twickenham.
England World Cup training squad
Chris Ashton (Saracens), Dave Attwood (Bath Rugby), Brad Barritt (Saracens), Kieran Brookes (Newcastle Falcons), Mike Brown (Harlequins), Luther Burrell (Northampton Saints), Sam Burgess (Bath Rugby), Danny Care (Harlequins), Danny Cipriani (Sale Sharks), Calum Clark (Northampton Saints), Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers), Alex Corbisiero (Northampton Saints), Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs), Elliot Daly (Wasps), Lee Dickson (Northampton Saints), Kyle Eastmond (Bath Rugby), Nick Easter (Harlequins), Owen Farrell (Saracens), George Ford (Bath Rugby), Alex Goode (Saracens), Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints), James Haskell (Wasps), Maro Itoje (Saracens), Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby), Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints), Joe Launchbury (Wasps), George Kruis (Saracens), Matt Kvesic (Gloucester Rugby), Joe Marler (Harlequins), Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby), Stephen Myler (Northampton Saints), Ben Morgan (Gloucester Rugby), Matt Mullan (Wasps), Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs), Geoff Parling (Leicester Tigers), Chris Robshaw (Harlequins), Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs), Ed Slater (Leicester Tigers), David Strettle (Saracens), Billy Twelvetrees (Gloucester Rugby), Mako Vunipola (Saracens), Billy Vunipola (Saracens), Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby), Rob Webber (Bath Rugby), Richard Wigglesworth (Saracens), David Wilson (Bath Rugby), Tom Wood (Northampton Saints), Marland Yarde (Harlequins), Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers), Tom Youngs (Leicester Tigers).