Stuart Lancaster, this afternoon has named an unchanged XV for England’s opening game of the Rugby World Cup against Fiji on Friday night.
There was much speculation as to who Lancaster would pick in several key positions, notably both second-row positions, number eight, both centre slots and either wing.
But he has decided to stick with the team that looked so dominant at stages during the victory against Ireland last weekend, as a reward for their hard work.
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At second row, the giant and destructive Courtney Lawes has been picked alongside Geoff Parling, ahead of Wasps lock Joe Launchbury.
At number eight, which may come as a surprise to some, is Gloucester’s Ben Morgan. He has been given the nod ahead of Saracens’ Billy Vunipola, after impressing against Ireland when facing Jamie Heaslip, one of the world’s best in that position.
In the centre, Jonathan Joseph retains his number 13 jersey that is hardly surprising. He is partnered by the ever constant hard-man Brad Barritt, which conversely may come as a shock to some fans, as he arguably isn’t good enough with the ball to have the privilege of the starting 12 slot.
Jack Nowell misses out on the wing, as the two stars from the win over the Irish, Johnny May and Anthony Watson will start for England on Friday night. And credit to Johnny May especially, he’s bulked up and added an extra yard of pace, something that nobody thought was possible.
The only change in the entire 23-man squad is on the bench, as Bath hooker Rob Webber replaces young Jamie George. Sam Burgess, much to the delight of England fans retains his place on the substitutes bench and will be hoping to make an impact if he is used.
England will take great confidence in their performances in the warm-ups, and the depth of their squad, as well as the invaluable advantage of the Twickenham faithful acting as a 16th man. They will look to pick up their first win against a powerful Fiji side looking to cause an upset in the ‘group of death’.
ENGLAND: 15 Mike Brown 14 Anthony Watson 13 Jonathan Joseph 12 Brad Barritt 11 Johnny May 10 George Ford 9 Ben Youngs; 1 Joe Marler 2 Tom Youngs 3 Dan Cole 4 Courtney Lawes 5 Geoff Parling 6 Tom Wood 7 Chris Robshaw (C) 8 Ben Morgan