For two years Stuart Lancaster had yesterday, 27 August, etched in his mind as the day that he was going to announce the 31 individuals that would represent him, his coaching team and this country in a home Rugby World Cup. That it is the level of detail that has gone into planning this summer however what he hadn't planned was that the squad would be largely known to most by the time that the 2pm press conference started. That is something that personally believe is a shame, however it not to be discussed now and instead we will begin to delve in to the decisions that he has made.
'Hugely difficult' were the words that Stuart used to describe the final selection calls that he had to make and England's calm Head Coach shared openly that the last few days had 'been a rollercoaster' for him. To clarify that wasn't due to last minute panicking or injuries instead it has been due to the fact that he was the man to speak with every player and the one that had to deliver them with the best or worst news of their rugby lives. For the past ten weeks and for years all of the members left in the final wider squad have been thinking about this home Rugby World Cup and being the person to shatter their chance of being a part of it is a test for even the toughest of individuals.
Naturally at yesterday's announcement the decisions regarding Sam Burgess and Danny Cipriani were a keen focus with all seeking to hear clearly from England's management why certain decisions were made. Stuart, and indeed every coach, shared wholeheartedly that Burgess has been 'picked on merit' and that the impression that he and Henry Slade have made on all in camp has been substantial;
"Both of them have come in and they have absolutely trained the house down, impressed everyone not just ourselves but the players themselves and went into that France game and made two debuts that I've not seen before. Those debuts were a reflection of how well they have both done and subsequently, in training, they have maintained those standards."
In terms of Danny Cirpriani it was the opportunity for England's Head Coach to explain his viewpoint on a man that so many have an viewpoint on;
"I mean, you have two warm up games and you try and give everyone an opportunity and that is the way that we did the selection in the manner that we did. Minutes wise, he got the same number as the two other fifteens the difficulty is that we are selecting in specialist positions so in Fly Half and Full Back."
"I can reassure everyone, 100% that in training over the last ten weeks everyone has had plenty of opportunity to put their talent forward both at 10 and 15, we do games in training all the time - Danny, George, Owen, Brownie, Goodie all of them have had fantastic opportunities. With only two warm up games it is difficult in an ideal world I would have had three or four but we didn't and we had to make the calls, it is tough on Danny he is a good player and we think that he has improved an awful lot and he has been fantastic in the camp but he has just lost out in those specialist positions and we are only taking two in each I'm afraid."
For all of the heated conversations that have raged outside of England's camp regarding certain individuals' inclusion or exclusion I think that at this point in time it would serve us well to remember that debating over too many talented players is always a better position to be in that worrying about limited options due to injuries or other reasons.
England's 31 man Rugby World Cup Squad is strong, we are absorbing it on the back of an 'off colour' performance that I believe is tarnishing a number of viewpoints and excitement. If England had delivered handsomely in Paris the buzz would be quite different however they did not.
There is so much more to delve into regarding my thoughts on individual selection calls and then building into the Ireland Test week and beyond however this is an early summary of yesterday's announcement. To end, I'll leave you with the words and praise that Stuart Lancaster had for all members of his squad on what was a significant day for the squad;
"I've got a huge amount of respect for their integrity and class and the way in which as a group they have dealt with it [final selection], because it was an unbelievably emotional changing room this morning for me personally and obviously I'm sure for players selected in the squad but equally for to the guys that missed out."
"As coaches what you have to do is to be fair and robust to everyone and trust your instincts, we have worked together for four years now as a coaching team and we trust each other's instinct. We trust the decisions that we have made, we trust the 31 players and we are ready to go."
England Rugby's 31 Man Rugby World Cup Squad
Props; Kieran Brookes, Dan Cole, Joe Marler, Mako Vunipola & David Wilson. Hookers; Jamie George, Rob Webber & Tom Youngs. Second rows; George Kruis, Joe Launchbury, Courtney Lawes & Geoff Parling. Back rows; James Haskell, Ben Morgan, Chris Robshaw (Captain), Billy Vunipola & Tom Wood. Scrum halves; Danny Care, Richard Wigglesworth & Ben Youngs. Fly halves; Owen Farrell & George Ford. Centres; Brad Barritt, Sam Burgess, Jonathan Joseph & Henry Slade. Back three; Mike Brown, Alex Goode, Jonny May, Jack Nowell & Anthony Watson