Stuart Lancaster has no qualms about picking Anthony Watson on the right wing for tomorrow’s QBE International against South Africa and believes he is ready for his first Test start.
Watson made his debut as a second-half replacement in the 24-21 loss to New Zealand and starts against the Springboks at Twickenham in place of Bath team-mate Semesa Rokoduguni, who has been ruled out by a thigh injury.
The 20-year-old Bath wing’s inclusion is head coach Lancaster’s only change to the England team beaten by the All Blacks and his place on the bench is taken by Harlequins’ Marland Yarde in the only other adjustment to the 23.”Anthony has been pushing hard for a while,” said Lancaster. “He has got all the physical attributes you need. He’s tall, good in the air, has pace and good footwork. Now his experience will be tested.”
Second-row Courtney Lawes and hooker Dylan Hartley have been cleared to take their places in the starting XV after recovering from the concussions they suffered against New Zealand.
South Africa remain the only major team Lancaster’s England have yet to defeat and their scalp would be viewed as an important win in the build-up to next year’s home World Cup.
Dan Carter will make his first Test start of 2014 when world champions New Zealand face Scotland at Murrayfield also tomorrow.
The All Blacks fly-half, now fully recovered from a broken leg, will feature in a team showing 13 changes and two positional switches from New Zealand’s 24-21 victory over England last weekend.
Only Ben Smith and skipper Richie McCaw remain, with Smith moving from wing to full-back and McCaw featuring for the first time during his stellar international career at blindside flanker instead of wearing the number seven shirt. Hooker James Parsons makes his Test debut, and there are also starts for the likes of Colin Slade — normally a fly-half, but chosen on the wing against Scotland — centre Malaki Fekitoa, prop Joe Moody and second-row forward Dominic Bird. Shoulder injuries, meanwhile,. have sidelined locks Brodie Retallick and Patrick Tuipulotu.
Scotland head coach Vern Cotter has kept the same starting XV that beat Argentina last week. The Dark Blues registered an encouraging 41-31 win over the Pumas in Cotter’s home debut and the Kiwi coach will be hoping for more of the same when they take on his world-champion compatriots.
Greig Laidlaw — man of the match against the Argentines — will again skipper the side from scrum-half, while New Zealand-born duo Sean Maitland and Blair Cowan will have their loyalties tested as they come up against the All Blacks for the first time.
ENGLAND (v South Africa, Twickenham)
M Brown (Harlequins); A Watson (Bath), B Barritt (Saracens), K Eastmond (Bath), J May (Gloucester); O Farrell (Saracens) , D Care (Harlequins); J Marler (Harlequins), D Hartley (Northampton), D Wilson (Bath), D Attwood (Bath), C Lawes (Northampton), T Wood (do.), C Robshaw (Harlequins, capt), B Vunipola (Saracens).
Replacements: R Webber (Bath), M Mullan (Wasps), K Brookes (Newcastle), G Kruis (Saracens), B Morgan (Gloucester), B Youngs (Leicester), G Ford (Bath), M Yarde (Harlequins).
SCOTLAND (v New Zealand, Murrayfield)
S Hogg (Glasgow Warriors); S Maitland (do.), M Bennett (do.), A Dunbar (do.) , T Seymour (do.), F Russell (do.), G Laidlaw (Gloucester, capt); A Dickinson (Edinburgh), R Ford (Edinburgh), E Murray (Glasgow Warriors), R Gray (Castres), J Gray (Glasgow Warriors), R Harley (do.), B Cowan (London Irish), A Ashe (Glasgow Warriors).
Replacements: F Brown (Glasgow Warriors), G Reid (do.), G Cross (London Irish), T Swinson (Glasgow Warriors), J Beattie (Castres), C Cusiter (Sale Sharks), D Weir (Glasgow Warriors), S Lamont (do.)
NEW ZEALAND: B Smith; C Slade, M Fekitoa, R Crotty, C Piutau; D Carter, T J Perenara; J Moody, J Parsons, C Faumuina, J Thrush, D Bird, R McCaw (capt), S Cane, V Vito.
Replacements: D Coles, W Crockett, B Franks, L Romano, L Messam, A Pulu, S B Williams, J Savea.
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