England have named an unchanged starting XV for Friday’s World Cup opener against Fiji at Twickenham.
The only adjustment to the 23 that dispatched Ireland 21-13 nine days ago sees hooker Rob Webber replace Jamie George on a bench that includes rugby league convert Sam Burgess.
Courtney Lawes has been chosen to partner line-out specialist Geoff Parling in the second row once again and Ben Morgan continues to be preferred to Billy Vunipola, who is selected among the replacements.
The final marginal call faced by head coach Stuart Lancaster was on the wings where Jonny May and Anthony Watson will start, keeping Jack Nowell out of the 23 for a second game.
Scrum-half Ben Youngs, one of seven survivors from the 2011 World Cup, will win his 50th cap when Fiji visit Twickenham.
Lancaster insists England are thrilled at the prospect of playing a World Cup on home soil and welcomes the “support of a nation’’ for his team.
“The squad is massively excited to start the World Cup. Everyone has worked incredibly hard over the last three months and we are ready,” he said.
“All the players have put their hand up in training and during the internationals we have played this summer.
“We are blessed to have such a strong squad to select from against a skilful and powerful Fijian side.
“Friday will be a great occasion for the whole squad and for the country. We are in a unique position to be playing in a World Cup on home soil and to have the support of a nation behind the team.
“That support will be a massive factor and we don’t underestimate its importance.
“I’d like to congratulate Ben Youngs on his achievement. To win 50 caps for your country in such a relatively short period of time is testament to Ben’s dedication and commitment.”
Meanwhile, Glasgow hooker Kevin Bryce admitted his World Cup call-up came completely out of the blue after he replaced the injured Stuart McInally in the Scotland squad.
Bryce — who was not even named in Vern Cotter’s initial 46-man training squad — was given the surprise newsyesterday afternoon after McInally failed to recover from a neck injury.
Bryce won his first call-up in Scotland’s 2014 summer tour, but did not feature off the bench after being called up as cover ahead of their warm-up win over Italy in Turin last month.
And the 27-year-old did not suspect anything despite being told on Sunday to report to Murrayfield yesterday morning.
Bryce, who played in Glasgow’s Guinness PRO12 win over Connacht on Friday, said: “It was quite a shock and it’s not quite sunk in yet.
“I have been on the fringes and went away to Italy but I never thought I was going to get the phone call.
“I always thought it was an outside bet. I never thought I would be going away to a World Cup.”
Bryce was stunned when Cotter delivered the news.
“His exact words were: ‘You’re in, congratulations’,” he said. “I wasn’t quite ready for it.
“I got a phone call on Sunday to come in today. I had a couple of niggles from the game on Friday so I had to come in and see everything was all right.
“The Scotland doctor wanted to see I was all right but I never thought anything of it. I trained in the morning and got told at lunchtime.”
Cotter felt Bryce’s versatility made him the right replacement.
“Our hookers can play loose-forward and Kevin as an ex-loose-forward ticks the boxes, he can cover two positions,” Cotter said.
“He came with us to Canada last year and played loose-forward in a game and came with us to Italy as back-up. He knows the squad.
“He’s a very good ball-carrier, he’s an aggressive chap and works hard. We know he will give us everything he has got.”
Like Bryce, Edinburgh’s McInally only has two caps, with injury and illness delaying his Scotland debut until the victory in Turin.
“I’m really disappointed for him,” Cotter said. “He has worked hard and to not be able to take part in this year’s World Cup is very tough on him.
“He’s a great rugby player, a good character. He’s a leader and we hope he recovers as quickly as possible.”
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