George Ford has been named in England’s matchday squad for Saturday’s RBS 6 Nations clash with Ireland at Twickenham.
Head coach Stuart Lancaster has included the uncapped Bath fly-half among the 23 to supply cover to Owen Farrell from the bench.
“We feel that the time is right to include George Ford in the match day squad,” Lancaster said.
Farrell is England’s first-choice fly-half but it is a position lacking in proven alternatives should the British and Irish Lion suffer an injury.
Ford’s strong form for Bath this season has seen him installed as the player most likely to offer cover up to and including the 2015 World Cup and the management feel he is ready to be blooded against Ireland.
“A full three weeks of training has allowed George the chance to really understand the way we are developing our game,” Lancaster said.
“This time has been crucial in order for him to feel confident and ready in a key decision making and leadership position.
“We have successfully integrated and included many young players over the last two years and George is the next exciting talent to make his mark in the senior squad.
“We are a looking forward to see him develop over the next few months.”
If he makes his debut at Twickenham, the talented Ford is unlikely to be seen until the final quarter of a match pivotal to the outcome of the Six Nations title race.
Centre Brad Barritt has been dropped from the 23 to make way for the gifted 20-year-old, who left Leicester for Bath last summer.
“Brad is obviously disappointed to miss out, but he’s still a key member of our squad,” Lancaster said.
“I’m sure he’ll get further opportunities in the future. He hasn’t had much game time since his injury and will benefit from some time with Saracens over the next two weeks.”
England’s hopes of naming an unchanged starting XV against Ireland have been derailed by the bulging neck disc sustained by tighthead prop Dan Cole.
Cole saw a specialist for a second opinion on Tuesday evening and the results of the assessment are now being considered by the England and Leicester medical teams with an update expected on Thursday.
David Wilson will fill the void left by Cole’s absence, despite having just returned from a calf injury himself, with Henry Thomas deputising on the bench.
Lancaster names his team to face Ireland on Thursday morning.
England squad to face Ireland in the RBS 6 Nations Championship at Twickenham on Saturday:
Forwards: D Attwood (Bath Rugby), D Hartley (Northampton Saints), J Launchbury (London Wasps), C Lawes (Northampton Saints), J Marler (Harlequins), B Morgan (Gloucester Rugby), C Robshaw (Harlequins, capt), H Thomas (Sale Sharks), B Vunipola (Saracens), M Vunipola (Saracens), D Wilson (Bath Rugby), T Wood (Northampton Saints), T Youngs (Leicester Tigers).
Backs: M Brown (Harlequins), L Burrell (Northampton Saints), D Care (Harlequins), L Dickson (Northampton Saints), O Farrell (Saracens), G Ford (Bath Rugby), A Goode (Saracens), J May (Gloucester Rugby), J Nowell (Exeter Chiefs), B Twelvetrees (Gloucester Rugby).