Autumn Internationals 2018: England team to play Japan

Eddie Jones

England men’s head coach Eddie Jones has named his team to play Japan in their third Quilter International at Twickenham Stadium on Saturday (KO 3pm, live on Sky Sports Action and Main Event).

There are 11 changes to the starting XV which faced New Zealand last weekend with two positional switches.

George Ford (Leicester Tigers) will start at fly half and captain England in his 50th match.

Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs) and Alex Lozowski (Saracens) are the centre pairing while Saturday’s try-scorer Chris Ashton (Sale Sharks) moves from right to left wing.

Bath wing Joe Cokanasiga will make his England debut while the uncapped apprentice Ted Hill (Worcester Warriors) is named as a finisher.

For the first time this series Danny Care (Harlequins) will start at scrum half with Richard Wigglesworth (Saracens) on the bench.

There are three changes to the front row with Exeter Chiefs’ props Alec Hepburn and Harry Williams starting alongside Saracens’ hooker Jamie George. England’s starting front three against New Zealand are named as finishers.

Charlie Ewels (Bath Rugby) will start in the second row in place of the injured George Kruis (Saracens) and will partner Maro Itoje (Saracens) who is named as vice-captain.

In other changes to the forward pack, Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints) will play blindside flanker with Mark Wilson (Newcastle Falcons) switching from number 8 to openside flanker. Zach Mercer (Bath Rugby) will make his first start for England at number 8.

Eddie Jones said: “Japan is an important game for us as we want to get back to winning ways. We have also tested ourselves in having a shorter preparation. We gave the players two days off after three weeks of intensive work. We have had a short preparation but a good preparation.”

On the squad selected Jones added: “This weekend is a good opportunity for us to test the depth of the squad. A number of players have changed their roles going from finishers to starters and starters to finishers so that is the essential change to the squad. It is exciting to be able to give starting opportunities to Zach Mercer and Joe Cokanasiga and young Ted Hill on the bench.

On Ford as captain, he said: “It’s a wonderful moment for him and his family. Fifty caps and captaining the side is a great honour and every game he plays for England he gives his absolute best.”

On Japan he added: “We are expecting plenty of energy, aggression and fast ball movement. They will be full of surprises, quick taps, lineouts and plays. They are going to have a bag of magic.”

Jones said on the Twickenham factor: “Last week the fans were absolutely exceptional in the atmosphere they created for the players. It was the best I have seen and we are looking forward to more of that on Saturday.”

Japan have won 11 of their last 17 matches in Europe, drawing one and losing five. Their last game on the continent saw them draw 23-23 with France last November.

This is only the second Test match between the two countries. The first was a Rugby World Cup match in 1987 with England beating Japan 60-7 in Sydney, Australia.

England starting XV
15 Elliot Daly (Wasps, 23 caps)
14 Joe Cokanasiga (Bath Rugby, uncapped)
13 Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs, 28 caps)
12 Alex Lozowski (Saracens, 4 caps)
11 Chris Ashton (Sale Sharks, 41 caps)
10 George Ford (Leicester Tigers, 49 caps) captain
9 Danny Care (Harlequins, 83 caps)

1 Alec Hepburn (Exeter Chiefs, 4 caps)
2 Jamie George (Saracens, 30 caps)
3 Harry Williams (Exeter Chiefs, 13 caps)
4 Charlie Ewels (Bath Rugby, 8 caps)
5 Maro Itoje (Saracens, 24 caps) vice-captain
6 Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, 66 caps)
7 Mark Wilson (Newcastle Falcons, 6 caps)
8 Zach Mercer (Bath Rugby, 1 cap)

16 Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints, 95 caps)
17 Ben Moon (Exeter Chiefs, 2 caps)
18 Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins, 15 caps)
19 Ted Hill (Worcester Warriors, uncapped)
20 Sam Underhill (Bath Rugby, 7 caps)
21 Richard Wigglesworth (Saracens, 31 caps)
22 Owen Farrell (Saracens, 63 caps)
23 Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs, 15 caps)

34 thoughts on “Autumn Internationals 2018: England team to play Japan

  1. Tasty.
    I like this team a lot. Fair bit of experimentation, some new combinations, an exciting debutant and a highly talented youngster on the bench.
    This is a team built to play with width and pace.
    Very interesting to see how they gel on the day.

  2. With the lower quality opposition eddie finally has some breathing space to test some hypothesis on his world cup squad. I think Nowell is being tested at centre as Jones sees his versatility and abilities making him a guaranteed player in the match 23, to cover both wings, centre and full back, and to have played games at the highest level in each posistion is key. I feel confident that Jones knows what he is doing and I think we will have a far more rounded and prepared squad than in 2015. He is aware who is key personal are, This autumn we have seen our depth in certain posistions is greater than we initially thought. Concede that Jones has benefited hugely from Stuart Lancaster tenure. The take over in 2012 is world’s apart from what Eddie had to work with in 2015

    1. James, you’re confident that Jones knows what he’s doing? He’s recently picked 1/2 his pack only due to injury. He’s inexplicably ignored experienced others like Attwood, Kvesic, Morgan, not to mention thrusters, such as Armand. And this is leaving aside his ignoring the most gifed player in Engalnd, Cipriani, to the point of blind prejudice & ignorance. Cipriani is light yrs shead of Farrell & Ford in terms of skills, timing, decision making & variety of play (Did you see him v Leicester last night? If not you missed a treat!).
      Jones then has a 13 @ 15 in Daly (where he’s only been ok) when he doesn’t know his best midfield yet. He’s dropped the most reliable rock @ the back, Milke Brown & has suddenly changed horses in midstream @ fly1/2! He’s just lost 1& only just won 1@ home in the AI’s with ltd game plans & an inability to score tries through his back line. To boot, in the latter AI, his team ceased to trouble the scoreboard for 45 minutes, being nilled from before 1/2time! If Jones wanted to know whom his key personnel were, he should have blooded his latest encumbents @ least 2 years ago by design, by enforcement! Likewise with the Nowell experiment @ centre. It’s hardly as if JN’s hasn’t been around for long enough. So what hypothesis? And all this a year out from the WC! More of a hippopotamus surely. You must be easily pleased.

        1. Another 1 to chuck into the fullback mix. What about the forgotten Jason Woodward? Looked good for Gloucester last night, 1 knock on apart. Ran with purpose, into space with pace for a good try. Simple, basic, effective footy.. like most rugby is. Jones could do worse, but I won’t hold my breath. But, to please Andy & fit his criteria, JW’s a Kiwi!

  3. Not totally convinced by the need for Nowell at 13 or the back row. If you want to give Lozowski a run in the centre, at least partner him with a dedicated centre rather than a utility back, I have nothing against Nowell and think he should be in the squad, but like others, I’m not always convinced by Eddie’s obsession with playing people out of their main position. Same applies for the back row, which is essentially a 5 1/2, and two 6/8s.

    I do like giving Cokanasiga a run out, real chance of becoming a WC bolter there!

  4. For me swap Daly and Nowell, also swap Itoje and Lawes.

    Wigglesworth is the past for me, it would’ve been a better idea to go for a younger scrum half to get a bit of international experience.

    The wings look dangerous.

    1. Persisting with wiggles while not developing a third scrum half is unquestionably one of Eddie’s biggest and most inexplicable errors imo. We could end up really suffering from the consequences of this stubbornness.

      1. I can only assume at this point he’s convinced Wrigglesworth is his 3rd 9 if he needs one at the WC. Keep in mind Australia went to the last WC with only two 9s, that also may be his plan.

        Eddie clearly isn’t thinking past next years WC, and rightly so, and he’s decided that Wrigglesworth will be his 3rd best by then.

        I disagree on that, but if he thinks that then having him involved is the only thing that makes sense. He obviously took Robson and Spencer in the summer and was convinced by neither.

      2. So he is not in the first flush of youth. He is first choice for the best club team in the UK, is a great organiser, kicks well and rarely makes a mistake. How many others have really put their hands up ? I would have him as number 2 to Care and replace Young s if I needed to blood another 9.

  5. Rather than seeing nowell’s move to centre as a trail of his versatility I see it as a test to see if he can nail down a centre positions which has been a question for us. In the back 3 if all fit we are fairly stocked, think Daly, Watson, may, Ashton and potentially brown for a more solid fullback choice. While at centre slade (better recently) has not fully convinced at outside centre, lozowski hasn’t been given a chance due to injury/stupidity and JJ wasn’t exactly on stellar form before his injury. I think EJ has nailed his colours to the mast seeing Daly as back 3 only so makes sense to see if Nowell can play at centre as he has proven himself already (albeit at wing) as an international player.

    1. Agree on Nowell. I actually think 13 might end up being his best position. He’s an incredibly smart player, which you desperately need from your 13. Beats players 1 on 1, defensively solid, great hands. His biggest weakness at wing is his lack of top end pace (see Reiko walking round him for the Blues on the Lions tour…). He’s a rapid centre, so it may work perfectly for him.

  6. It looks like a squad born out of contingency, like EJ is testing out the options for players out of position should be encounter injuries during the RWC.

    Saying that, this would have been the opportune moment to test Tuilagi out, starting or on the bench which makes me wonder if he is even in the running anymore…?

    1. Agree with Robbie this time. Not sure if Jones will learn a lot from having the dodgy Hepburn, e.g., in v Japan. Also, Daly (again, yawn) ought to have a run @ centre, not Nowell. I mean has the latter ever played there before? Doesn’t make sense. Also, has he now discarded Shields (after mass criticism from TRB?) , especially after picking him for the 2 previous games? Has Brown now too been permanently dished like Cipriani? Seems the likes of Attwood, Kvesic & Morgan, experienced all, are in the same boat! Is Armand another missed opportunity? Whimsical omissions. @ home this team will almost certainly beat Japan, but what about genuine centre combos & fullback options? Daly has only been ok. Good that some like Ewells & Williams get a run, maybe Cokanasiga (I prefer Roko’s exp) & Lozowski. The overall pack seems sound (Hepburn apart?) enough, with ok haves to start, but has Jones missed a WC trick in midfield & full ? A bit of a mixed bag?

      1. Don, Nowell has played quite a bit of his rugby in the centres for Exeter.
        Shields, I would imagine is being rested for this one, not discarded.
        This is probably Hepburn’s chance to make a play for a possible RWC squad place. If he struggles on Saturday, that chance will have gone probably, so he’s probably worth a look in this game.

        1. Ok Staggy. You’ll likely know better than me regarding Nowell. Only seen him @ wing, but the ? is whether he’ll stand up @ centre in the WC facing stiff oppo. Hope for Shields’ sake he gets more game ops to further prove himself. As for Hepburn? Dunno.

      2. Nowell regularly plays centre for Exeter so isn’t a terrible left field selection. The only issue here is that outside centre is widely recognised as Daly’s best position so the fans want to see him given a go there to prove what he can do.

  7. Should he be experimenting less than 12 months to RWC or should he be focusing on playing the current first team who are pretty unfamiliar with each other in order to give us the best chance of beating Australia.For me it’s the latter.Earlier in the week he said he would select the strongest team which patently he hasn’t.

  8. Good to see Care get a start. He is looking sharp this season. What did Underhill do wrong last week to get dropped completely? Don´t mind Lawes at 6 as I think he might well play there when Launch is fit. Not surprised about Shields. Agree with a lot of what Don says, particularly about Daly. Don´t see Nowell as a centre, but have always liked the look of Lozowski. It will be interesting to see who gets the 10 shirt against Australia.

    1. I think there’s merit in resting Underhill for this one. The way he batters himself he could do with the break before Aus.

      I can’t see Farrell not returning at 10 for the next one. There seems to be a suggestion that Tuilagi will be in the picture (maybe, finally) so no room for Ford and Farrell.

      1. i have to agree with others about Nowell. Not that he can’t play at centre but as well as square peg syndrome is it an indicator that manu is still struggling for genuine fitness? Not impressed with Lawes at six either. i said last week that Eddie likes to play the pauper and this is what I mean. Having Hill on the bench is a brave move but, is he mature enough for the WC squad and if not then his place could have gone to a more seasoned player.
        I hope Cokanasiga shows he can play an all round game, ie, defending and catching the ball as well as he can scatter defenders.
        Hepburn is on shaky ground for me. he needs a big statement of intent in the scrum.

        1. I think that Hepburn has rather a lot to do. the truth is that even with Marler’s retirement, Hepburn may find himself 5th choice when all are fit?

          Vunipola, Genge, Obano, Moon all ahead of him. Kinda surprised than Nathan Catt hasn’t had more of a look in too.

          1. I was advocating a run out for Catt too. I’m guessing Hepburn got the nod to keep the Exeter link in the front row. It’s worked out far better for Moon. I hope he nails down a WC spot now. I think t/hd is a more worrying position. After Sinckler and Williams who is there? it really surprise me that Schonert hasn’t got a run out against japan. Another one of EJ’s “fill up the numbers ” selections?

      1. If he is Finnish he can’t play for England anyway. He needs to be from New Zealand, South Africa or one of the Pacific Islands.

  9. Definitely not the team i would have picked which is exactly why I think it’s brilliant. Gives a run out to some fringe players (as a warriors fan I am delighted to see young Ted Hill get a look in).
    Big Joe on the wing looks a real handful and has the hallmarks of a real bolter in the backline.
    Underhill obviously needs a rest given last week’s mammoth exploits.

  10. At the risk of overthinking this; Cokanasiga plays left wing at Bath, and Ashton ordinarily plays right wing. I wonder why they are showing as the other way around.

    (accepting – of course – for the fact that their shirt numbers do not necessarily determine where they stand on the pitch!)

  11. Bit odd to not switch daly and nowell here, but with them both being on the pitch they could be repositioned
    I can’t remember lawes ever looking really comfortable at 6, I feel it would make more sense to see if a promising 6 could make the jump to international level. All this playing out of position makes people look worse than they are


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