London – Danny Care was recalled to the senior England squad by coach Stuart Lancaster on Thursday, completing the scrumhalf's return to favour after bouncing back from alcohol-related problems that threatened his future at Test level.
Care was dropped from the squad in January ahead of the Six Nations following a series of off-field incidents, including an arrest for drunk-driving on New Year's Day that led to him being banned from driving for 16 months.
However, he was picked for England's recent tour of South Africa, scoring a try in the drawn third Test, and was one of seven changes Thursday to a 32-man Elite Player Squad that Lancaster will rely on for the autumn tests.
Forwards Geoff Parling, Thomas Waldrom and Tom Johnson and backs Alex Goode, Anthony Allen and Jonathan Joseph are the other new players in the group.
“Selecting players at this stage gives us an early chance to sit down and assess the tour and look forward to next season,” Lancaster said.
Twenty-six of the 42-man party who toured South Africa were included in the squad. Tom Croft, Courtney Lawes, Charlie Sharples, Matt Stevens, Rob Webber and Tom Wood missed the trip because of injury but remain in the elite squad.
A second-string Saxons squad of 32 players was also announced by Lancaster and will be used if there are any injuries in his senior squad.
England plays Fiji, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand in home internationals across November and the start of December.
“There is always movement which opens the door for players and I am sure next season will be no different,” said Lancaster, citing Parling's rise from Saxon to regular test starter at lock since January.
Care said in May that he has given up drinking to get his Test career back on track following four arrests for alcohol-related incidents in the space of three months from December to March.
The Harlequins No. 9 felt the full force of the strict regime under disciplinarian Lancaster when he was dropped, with the then-interim coach saying he would only be recalled when “we feel he can be trusted to behave appropriately on and off the field.”
That came ahead of the South Africa tour on which he impressed in the first of two midweek games before being recalled for the final test in place of Ben Youngs for his 32nd cap.
Care missed last year's World Cup because of injury.
Johnson's first call-up to the elite squad is a reward for a strong season in the English league with Exeter and impressive displays in South Africa, playing all three Tests in the absence of fellow flanker Croft.
Forwards: Mouritz Botha, Alex Corbisiero, Dan Cole, Tom Croft, Phil Dowson, Dylan Hartley, Tom Johnson, Courtney Lawes, Joe Marler, Ben Morgan, Tom Palmer, Geoff Parling, Chris Robshaw, Matt Stevens, Thomas Waldrom, Rob Webber, Tom Wood.
Backs: Anthony Allen, Chris Ashton, Brad Barritt, Mike Brown, Danny Care, Lee Dickson, Owen Farrell, Toby Flood, Ben Foden, Alex Goode, Jonathan Joseph, Charlie Sharples, Manu Tuilagi, Jordan Turner-Hall, Ben Youngs.– Sapa-AP