Lancaster sure switch will work
England head coach Stuart Lancaster is confident his bold tactical thinking will pay off in Saturday's opening Test against South Africa.
Lancaster has made a brave positional switch for the Durban clash by pushing full-back Ben Foden out to the left wing and bringing in Mike Brown at number 15.
Lancaster believes having two full-backs on the field will improve the team's defences under high balls while both players also offer an adept kicking game.
The decision was hastened by a calf injury to wing David Strettle, but Lancaster had been considering the option since arriving in South Africa for the three-Test tour last week.
"Mike has had an outstanding season," Lancaster said. "He brings a left-footed kicking game and great aerial skills along with Ben.
"Ben is obviously a great strike runner as well. He has been great about it and he can see the benefits of how this can open his game up.
"When you make these decisions there is an element that wonders how he will go in this situation but we have had 10 days together, and we have worked on it for those 10 days.
"Sometimes you have to make brave decisions and, from my point of view, it is the right decision for the team and it is going to benefit the team massively, hopefully."
The pair will form a back three with right winger Chris Ashton, who played full-back in his rugby league days with Wigan.
"It is a great opportunity to see them together and, if training is anything to go by, we should be excited by those combinations," Lancaster said.
The England team for the series opener at Kings Park contains three other changes from the side which beat Ireland in the final RBS 6 Nations match in March.
Harlequins prop Joe Marler and Exeter flanker Tom Johnson come in for their debuts while Ben Youngs is preferred at scrum-half to Lee Dickson.
Marler benefits from Alex Corbisiero's failure to prove his fitness but Lancaster claims the 21-year-old was ready to step in anyway.
He said: "Joe did really well in the Six Nations and was unlucky not to get a cap.
"Alex has had one or two niggles but I think Joe would have pushed him hard from the outset."
Marler has a reputation for hot-headedness and, with a Mohican, is one of the game's colourful characters but Lancaster has no disciplinary concerns.
He said: "I think he has matured massively during the last 12 months.
"I thought in the (Premiership) final he proved his worth against our tighthead - Dan Cole is a pretty experienced campaigner.
"All the players recognise discipline is going to be a key factor on Saturday - we can ill afford to give away penalties - and I think Joe has been excellent throughout the season."
Johnson's selection at the age of 29 has a fairytale element to it after he found his way into the Premiership via spells at Chinnor, Reading and Coventry.
He will become the first Exeter player to represent England since 1964.
The absence of Leicester's Tom Croft from the tour through injury and James Haskell's late arrival from New Zealand domestic rugby may have aided his cause, but he has Lancaster's full confidence.
"I think it is a great story and a great journey for someone who has come through the lower leagues," Lancaster said.
"He was outstanding against the Barbarians and has been very good in training this week.
"You only have to look at the stats for the season and I think the top two or three ball-carriers are all in the starting side, and Tom Johnson is one of them.
"He is a good defender, incredibly athletic and explosive."
The scrum-half role was a straight choice between Youngs and Dickson with Danny Care, back in contention after missing the Six Nations due to off-field issues, made to bide his time.
Lancaster said: "Ben's form certainly picked up post the Ireland game, right through to the end of the season, and I think just edged it over Lee.
"Danny Care has also come in as well, which is great for us, and a lot of those midweek guys have trained really well, pushing hard for selection."
Dickson will be on the replacements' bench along with fit-again Leicester fly-half Toby Flood, who has been out for the past month with groin and ankle injuries.
Youngs will partner Owen Farrell, who moves back to number 10 after starting at inside centre in the recent Barbarians match.