• Graham Rowntree insists Nick Easter is in mix because of experience
  • Dylan Hartley could also be included despite currently serving ban
  • Hartley would not be available to face Fiji in opening World Cup game 
  • England coaching staff will have final selection meeting on Wednesday before naming squad on Thursday

Sam Peters for the Daily Mail

Nick Easter and Dylan Hartley could both have a shot at redemption for the scandal-hit 2011 World Cup campaign after being given a selection boost by England’s management.

Easter, 37, was on Tuesday strongly endorsed by forwards coach Graham Rowntree, who indicated the No 8 is a serious contender for the 31-man squad. Hartley, who is serving a ban for butting, has been told he will be considered if one of the hookers is injured.

England’s management will have a final selection meeting on Wednesday night, with Stuart Lancaster set to name his final squad on Thursday lunchtime, and versatile Harlequins forward Easter is pressing hard after recovering from a back injury that saw him miss four weeks of camp.

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Nick Easter (pictured during England's defeat by France) could be included in his side's 31-man squad

Nick Easter (pictured during England’s defeat by France) could be included in his side’s 31-man squad

England forwards coach Graham Rowntree said Easter's performance against France has made the back row even more competitive ahead of Thursday's squad announcement

England forwards coach Graham Rowntree said Easter’s performance against France has made the back row even more competitive ahead of Thursday’s squad announcement

‘Nick has played for England at six, eight and lock,’ said Rowntree. ‘That comes into the mix plus his experience. He’s in good nick and he’s powerful. He can turn slow ball into good ball.’

Both Easter and Hartley were part of Martin Johnson’s scandal-hit 2011 squad, with Hartley among a group of players photographed at a dwarf-tossing bar on a drunken night out at the start of the tournament.

Hartley, 29, currently serving a four-match ban for butting Jamie George in Northampton’s Aviva Premiership semi-final defeat in May, is not eligible to play until after England’s opening game against Fiji on September 18.

Dylan Hartley also has a chance of being included in the 31-man squad despite currently serving a ban

Dylan Hartley also has a chance of being included in the 31-man squad despite currently serving a ban

There are still differences of opinions between Stuart Lancaster and his coaches over selections

There are still differences of opinions between Stuart Lancaster and his coaches over selections

But he could be called up if one of the three hookers Lancaster names — expected to be George, Tom Youngs and Rob Webber — goes down injured.

Rowntree said: ‘We never discount the possibility of Dylan coming in, if required, so long as he has served his ban. Dylan’s fit and I’ve been in touch with him regularly, so I know where he is and he’d be able to slot in if we needed him.’

 

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