Rokoduguni handed England start

Published: Thursday 6th November 2014 by The News Editor

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England have named Semesa Rokoduguni on the right wing for Saturday’s QBE Series opener against New Zealand at Twickenham.

The uncapped Rokoduguni, a serving soldier in the British Army with the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards who has seen action in Afghanistan, has been rewarded for an outstanding start to the season at Bath.

Born in Fiji, the 27-year-old was once unable to make the bench of his school team but now finds himself acting as England’s main threequarter strike weapon in the injury-enforced absence of Manu Tuilagi.

“I’m delighted for Roko. Wing is an extremely competitive position, but he has pushed himself forward with his form this season and it’s great to be able to give him this opportunity,” head coach Stuart Lancaster said.

Rokoduguni is one of three uncapped players in the 23 with Bath team-mate Anthony Watson offering back-three cover from the bench and George Kruis of Saracens the second-row replacement.

Dave Attwood, one of seven Bath players in the matchday squad, starts at lock after his fiancee gave birth to their first child on Tuesday.

“I’m sure Anthony and George will contribute should they come off the bench. Dave Attwood has had an eventful week with the birth of his first child. He’s back with us now and will be ready to go for Saturday,” Lancaster said.

England have selected a previously untried centre pairing of Kyle Eastmond – the Aviva Premiership’s form player – and Brad Barritt.

Eastmond experienced mixed fortunes during the summer tour to New Zealand, excelling in the first Test only to be replaced at half-time of the third when his defensive frailties were exposed.

Barritt’s inclusion at outside centre provides England with an insurance policy as Lancaster views the Saracens midfielder as best defensive back in the Premiership.

Jonny May of Gloucester fills the left wing slot despite a disappointing tour of New Zealand which placed his international future in doubt.

Danny Care and Owen Farrell form the half-backs with Farrell chosen despite being restricted to only two starts for Saracens this season because of a thigh strain.

England’s pack, which has been decimated by injuries to the tight five, picked itself once the respective calf and thigh injuries carried by props David Wilson and Joe Marler cleared up.

Attwood was the next in line to partner Courtney Lawes in the second row after Joe Launchbury was ruled out of the entire autumn schedule with a neck problem.

Billy Vunipola has held off the number eight challenge from Ben Morgan to start in the back row with Chris Robshaw leading the team.

England host New Zealand on Saturday before facing further autumn appointments with South Africa, Samoa and Australia.

Published: Thursday 6th November 2014 by The News Editor

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