Saints stars Burrell and Dickinson catch the eye of England boss Lancaster

CATCHING THE EYE - Saints centre Luther Burrell (picture by Linda Dawson)
CATCHING THE EYE - Saints centre Luther Burrell (picture by Linda Dawson)
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Stuart Lancaster has hinted that Saints stars Luther Burrell and Sam Dickinson could soon play key roles for England.

Lancaster labelled Burrell ‘the pick of the inside centres so far’ this season, while he also praised the rise to prominence of No.8 Dickinson.

Both players have enjoyed superb starts to the campaign, helping Saints claim three wins and a draw from their opening five Aviva Premiership games.

Jim Mallinder’s men sit second in the standings as they head into Europe this weekend.

But they may soon have to deal with losing a number of their key men, with England facing Australia, Argentina and New Zealand on successive weekends in November.

And Burrell and Dickinson are two players who are catching the eye of national boss Lancaster.

“Luther Burrell, on form, has been the pick of the inside centres so far,” said Lancaster, who has lost Saracens centre Brad Barritt and Leicester powerhouse Manu Tuilagi to injury.

“He has shown what I already knew, having coached him, that he has better distribution than people give him credit for and he has a good defensive game now.

“Northampton deserve credit for what they have done in terms of his conditioning and his mindset.

“I used to have to talk to Luther about his consistency, but in all the games he has played this season he has shown that level which shows he is a genuine contender now.

“To win at the highest level you have to have a combination of pace, power, skill and physicality – and Luther is now beginning to show that physicality, which it is really important.”

Dickinson, too, has made a big impression in the early part of the campaign, enjoying a superb run of form since making his first Saints start in the opening-day win against Exeter.

The forward, who joined from Rotherham in the summer or 2012, was unable to play any part for Northampton’s first team last season due to a broken arm.

But he been back with a bang in recent weeks, alerting Lancaster.

“Certainly, if you were picking (England squads) now, someone like Sam Dickinson would be there or thereabouts in the Saxons,” he said.

“I’m hoping if that was the case, there wouldn’t be any objections because surely rugby decisions come first?”

One Saints player guaranteed to be involved, injury-permitting, is flanker Tom Wood, who has been tipped to take over the England captaincy.

Wood led the Red Rose to a 2-0 Test series win in Argentina during the summer, staking his claim to strip Chris Robshaw of the role of skipper.

But Lancaster will not be making any quick calls.

“We’ll leave the decision until we meet in Leeds,” he said.

“We have two big European weekends and I have said you must select on form and fitness first. Injuries also play a part.”