RWC 2019 Warm-up IV: England Team to Play Italy

Anthony Watson

England men’s head coach Eddie Jones has named his side to play in the Quilter International against Italy on Friday at St James’ Park in Newcastle (KO 1945 live on Sky Sports).

A mix and match selection strategy sees Joe Marchant named at outside centre with Piers Francis at inside centre. Owen Farrell, who captains the team, starts at fly half while debutant Ruaridh McConnochie is named on the right wing with Anthony Watson at fullback.

Dan Cole starts alongside Jamie George and Joe Marler in the front row with Joe Launchbury and Courtney Lawes named as the lock pairing. Mark Wilson will start at openside flanker with Tom Curry and Billy Vunipola making up the rest of the back row.

Jones said: “We are delighted to be playing against Italy, one of our traditional Six Nations rivals and the game for us is another important step to develop our game fitness and game strategy. We have gone with a mix and match selection policy to develop our adaptability and the team’s ability to cope with any situation.

“We have had a solid training week in Treviso with hot conditions so we are looking forward to testing ourselves against Italy on Friday night. Then we hop on the plane and are ready to go to Japan.”

This is the first England Test match to be played at St James’ Park in Newcastle which hosted three Rugby World Cup fixtures in 2015.

Jones added: “We are excited to be playing in Newcastle. We are playing at an iconic football ground and we know the area is an important one for rugby in the northern part of England. We are looking forward to seeing and playing in front of the fans.”

England starting XV v Italy

15 Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby, 35 caps)
14 Ruaridh McConnochie (Bath Rugby, uncapped)
13 Joe Marchant (Harlequins, 2 caps)
12 Piers Francis (Northampton Saints, 7 caps)
11 Jonny May (Leicester Tigers, 46 caps)
10 Owen Farrell (Saracens, 72 caps) C
9 Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 88 caps)

1 Joe Marler (Harlequins, 61 caps)
2 Jamie George (Saracens, 39 caps)
3 Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers, 88 caps)
4 Joe Launchbury (Wasps, 60 caps)
5 Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, 74 caps)
6 Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, 12 caps)
7 Mark Wilson (Newcastle Falcons/Sale Sharks, 14 caps)
8 Billy Vunipola (Saracens, 44 caps)

16 Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, 14 caps)
17 Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers, 11 caps )
18 Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins, 24 caps)
19 Charlie Ewels (Bath Rugby, 11 caps)
20 Matt Kvesic (Exeter Chiefs, 3 caps)
21 Willi Heinz (Gloucester Rugby, 3 caps)
22 George Ford (Leicester Tigers, 58 caps)
23 Joe Cokanasiga (Bath Rugby, 7 caps)

39 thoughts on “RWC 2019 Warm-up IV: England Team to Play Italy

  1. Joe Marchant starting, with Charlie Ewels and Matt Kvesic on the bench! Must be strange for those guys being so close to the squad without being in it, sort of half-wishing for an injury…

    1. Hutch the bastions of knowledge the BBC are all over the inclusion of Marchant, querying JJ’s fitness, no mention of Kvesic or Ewels……….

      1. Yes I think there are concerns over JJ, and Slade is definitely injured so I can see why Marchant is starting. All seems a bit late in the day though for developing contingency plans…

  2. When the selection boat has already set sail, why is Eddie now picking guys who should have been on the boat already!?!?! Frustrating!!
    Marchany over Francis for sure! Kvesic over someone, just not sure who? Maybe even Wilson?

    1. Wilson has more than earned his place and I wouldn’t have Ksevic over either of Underhill or Curry so don’t see where he would fit in. Interesting to know that he’s seen as injury cover though

      1. I wouldnt have him over any of those either but think he played out of his skin at Exeter at no.8. Maybe he could have done a job there.

        1. Maybe EJ is having 2nd thoughts about 8 cover for Billy, esp after having read all TRB comments on this subject?

  3. An Interesting selection-I doubt we will learn anything definitive except for the fact that is the fastest Back 3 to ever to take to the field-Can England find the best way to use them?-Ive seen this McConachie lad play down at the Rec and he has got serious gas! and amazing ball handling skills as befits a sevens expert.
    One thing bothers me at present and that is Injuries-they may be a fact of life(The only time I played injury free was the first game of the season),but there is is a world of difference between the serious injuries suffered by JJ and AW which take a long time to recover from, which rarely recur and the types of injuies which seem to be chronic in Mako,Henry and Jack,amongst others.By their very nature,due to repetitive stress, knee ligament and hamstring injuries tend to be highly repetitive and a large part of that can be put down to rushing Mother Nature-Sometimes it is necessary to tell a player to take a complete break for long term benefit.

  4. Takes only one specialist 8…plays only specialist 8 in all 4 warm up games prior to warm up….

    The only explanation is a lack of match fitness/sharpness?

    1. Or, Jones is a gambler……………,either way , it beggars belief.
      I hope Watson does enough to make Ed reconsider who fills the 15 shirt.
      As others have said, the bench selection of Kvesic and playing Marchant in the actual XV is deeply frustrating.

      1. The times Watson has played alongside Daly it’s the former who actually looked like he was playing full back and not on the wing, his defensive positioning and ability under the high ball are streets ahead of Daly. Dont get me wrong, Daly is a fabulous rugby player, just not a FB imo.

      2. Stuart Barnes was saying that playing Billy is the way to get him up to peak performance. Someone who thrives playing more rather than on the training ground. Certainly a gamble but I can see the logic.

        1. Yeah I read a release from England Rugby noting something similar.

          At the end of the day we are all armchair fans when it comes to the inner workings of Pennyhill Park so just gotta trust ’em, I guess.

  5. Off topic but I’ve solved the comment blacklisting issue that has been affecting some people. The word ‘cialis’ was on a blacklist, which is some sort of drug, and any comment containing those letters in that order was being marked as spam – anyone talking about a ‘specialist 8’ for instance!

      1. Hadn’t Castle Graycastle, or whatever his name was, already done so? Didn’t display much (any?) speshialist rugby knowledge.

  6. Good to finally see Watson at fullback but given that he has not been tested there previously it feels like scant consolation

  7. Shows that whatever team England puts out, it looks fairly strong. Suppose the bench will all see some action, but it seems pretty 11th hr for Kvesic to finally get called up. Marchant’s inclusion seems like WC insurance. Their ealier & increased involvement might have revealed more for WC cover, or inclusion? Could understand Wilson getting a run @ 8. Would rest Billy’s brittle bones & better explore WC cover here. Also unclear on why Curry & Wilson start in the other’s position. Swap later on maybe? Assume it’s a last (& only) chance to see if this combo could work in Japan. Again, a late call. Interesting to see how this 1st time back 3 go. McConnochie can do with game time (@ last) & expect May will likely relish same. Don’t think Watson’s selection threatens Daly’s incumbency, but if he has a blinder, may cause EJ some head scratching? Seems Youngs is bullett proof, but wonder when/if Heinz will come on? Does Farrell’s pick @ fly 1/2 mean that he is the WC starter? Quite possibly. Guessing that the prop & lock duos are seen as future ‘finishers’? Personally think that any of these tight 4 starters wouldn’t weaken England much if they continued as such in Japan. Probably a walk in the park for England with a last quick look @ possible bolters & injury induced combos. Don’t see too much new benefit from Sat’s game, although England will hope to keep all their participants intact.

    1. Don, picking up on your point about 6 and 7, I’m trying to rationalise it but can’t. With Underhill and Curry in the squad we’re well covered and Kvesic’s on the phone if either of them have a real problem. Seems like bolstering of positions that are well covered while zero consideration is given to 8.

      In Eddie we despair. Well, you probably don’t.

      1. Yes JK, seems an odd call to swap Curry & Wilson, esp as Wilson may have slipped down pecking order. Made more sense to have tried Wilson @ 8, or his natural 6. Kvesic on later, or even to start, @ 7/8? The now departed Alex D prev stated; ‘In Eddie we trust’. For me, from a rugby pureist’s POV, EJ makes some seemingly odd calls. Will poss only affect England though, in a tight, late stage WC game?

  8. Why are we playing Billy 4 times in a row?! It’s madness. Far better to give Wilson a run there. We seem to be the only world cup squad with more backs than forwards – given our problems in the past with the breakdown this doesn’t make sense.
    Would prefer Marchant to JJ!

    1. Bolter spot on mate, with everyone questioning the value of these ‘friendlies’ why risk one of our most potent weapons against the 6 Nations whipping boys?

      This was the game to try an option such as Wilson as highlighted, all it takes is him falling awkwardly in a tackle and thats it.

        1. Well Mr. B, he’ll likely get some time, but for how long & in what position? Hard to say. Logical to go for 8, as cover, or 6 as it’s his more natural place. However, EJ’s as likely to put him in @ 7!?

  9. I don’t have an issue with the unpicked players getting a run out – if EJ sees this as an unnecessary risk for a few of the chosen players, there’s a need to make up the numbers while continuing to up the fitness of those that need it. Plus it gives possible injury replacements a bit of sharpness.

    However, as others have said, I cannot for the life of me understand why Billy’s involved. I’m really trying to get on board with Eddie but things like this fry my brain.

  10. Totally agree with comments on BV, said it the last few games. He is looking much more like his old self and really wouldn’t want to see him injured in a pointless dead rubber. Also, if this is a mix and match strategy to see how the team copes, is that not a perfect chance to try Wilson at 8? He will almost certainly have to play there in the qualifiers so give him some time now. Doesn’t matter if BV wants to play, the coach decides the team and must do so to best achieve the goal.

    1. I actually read somewhere that playing more often can toughen your body and make injury less likely. It does seem that Billy often gets injured just when he returns to playing. So keeping him playing and maintaining his body’s conditioning to contact could be the best way to prevent injury.

  11. Fair point but I just think our whole squad goes sideways if BV gets injured, the lack of a 2nd experienced, embedded 8 is a real worry for me.


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