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Rugby | International Rugby

England fresh-faced for Fiji



Stuart Lancaster has named one of the most inexperienced England teams of recent years for their test against Fiji on Saturday as he continues his trawl of the Premiership in search of the perfect blend for an assault on the 2015 World Cup.

Lancaster, who gave seven players their debuts in his first match in charge against Scotland this year, is set to blood three more on Saturday with Tom Youngs starting at hooker and prop Maku Vunipola and lock Joe Launchbury on the bench.

Youngs, whose brother Ben is scrumhalf backup for Danny Care, switched to hooker from centre only three years ago and steps in for the injured Dylan Hartley.

Vunipola, the 21-year-old son of former Tonga captain Fe'ao, qualifies for England through residency while Launchbury, also 21, was a surprise inclusion ahead of Mouritz Botha having been drafted into the squad as injury cover only last week.

Alongside Youngs in the front row Joe Marler will win his fourth cap and Dan Cole adds experience as he earns his 32nd.

Toby Flood is back at flyhalf alongside Care in the most experienced combination, while Charlie Sharples starts on the right wing in place of suspended Chris Ashton. Ugo Monye wins his first cap in more than two years on the other wing and Alex Goode plays his third international after winning the fullback duel with Mike Brown who is on the bench.

Chris Robshaw captains the side from openside flanker with Tom Johnson, who won his three caps on the June tour of South Africa, on the blindside and New Zealand-born Thomas Waldrom, winning his third cap at No 8.

The starting team have a little over 200 caps between them in comparison with the 600-plus benchmark for World Cup success.

After facing Fiji, England play Australia, South Africa and New Zealand on successive Saturdays.

"This series will be a real marker of where we are as a squad," Lancaster said in a statement.

"We are playing four back-to-back matches in four weeks against the top teams in the world and we are confident we can rise to the challenge. The foundations are in place, now it's time for us to execute and deliver.

"Fiji is a good first test for us and we can't wait to play back at Twickenham."

"Congratulations to Tom Youngs, who has made a great transition from centre to hooker in a short period and deserves his chance, as do Joe Launchbury and Mako Vunipola, who we are pleased to be able to include in the squad."

Team: 15-Alex Goode, 14-Charlie Sharples, 13-Manu Tuilagi, 12-Brad Barritt, 11-Ugo Monye, 10-Toby Flood, 9-Danny Care; 8-Thomas Waldrom, 7-Chris Robshaw (captain), 6-Tom Johnson, 5-Tom Palmer, 4-Geoff Parling, 3-Dan Cole, 2-Tom Youngs, 1-Joe Marler.

Replacements: 16-David Paice, 17-Dave Wilson, 18-Mako Vunipola, 19-Joe Launchbury, 20-Tom Wood, 21-Ben Youngs, 22-Owen Farrell, 23-Mike Brown.



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