Home England England Team to Face Italy Highlights Strength in Depth

England Team to Face Italy Highlights Strength in Depth

England have Selected their Match Day 23 for their Final World Cup Warm Up Match Versus Italy this Friday Night at St. James' Park in Newcastle.

Anthony Watson of England looks dejected during the Natwest Six Nations match between France and England at Stade de France on March 10, 2018 in Paris, France. (Photo: Steve Haag Sports)

The final warm up game before for England before this year’s Rugby World Cup sees them take on Italy this Friday night, away from their usual home base of Twickenham.

St James’ Park, the home stadium of Newcastle United Football Club is where England will officially be given their send off to Japan.

Eddie Jones has brought in three players from outside of his squad that was selected to play in the World Rugby showpiece as Joe Marchant starts at outside centre whilst Matt Kvesic and Charlie Ewels will warm the bench.

Apart from Mako Vunipola and other existing injuries to Henry Slade and Jack Nowell, Jones has been fairly fortunate with losing players thus far and it has given him a chance to rest players for this match.

That said, he has picked a strong England outfit that serves to highlight their strength in depth.

A front row of Jamie George, Dan Cole and Joe Marler will be backed up by Joe Launchbury and Courtney Lawes. Launchbury and Lawes are looking more and more likely to be back up to Maro Itoje and George Kruis at the World Cup but don’t be surprised if Lawes moves into the back row at some point during this match.

Tom Curry starts on the blindside with Mark Wilson making his first pre-world cup starting appearance on the openside. Wilson is one of the more versatile members of the pack in that he can play across all positions. With Billy Vunipola making his fourth straight start at Number 8 and only Kvesic on the bench as back row cover, Wilson may move to the back of the pack at some point in the match to get the game time he needs and to give Vunipola some rest.

Ben Youngs needs as many minutes as he can get at scrumhalf to shake off the rustiness he showed against Ireland as Owen Farrell skippers the team from his usual fly-half position.

Piers Francis has impressed in his two starts in August and this sort of opponent should help him play his natural game and cause damage with Marchant outside of him.

Ruadridh McConnochie will hope that his niggling injury curse will allow him to finally gain his first cap for England on the opposite wing to Jonny May.

The most intriguing selection that could still have a bearing on World Cup selection is at Full Back though. Anthony Watson gets a start there and will have a chance to stake a claim for one of the more vulnerable shirts in the England Camp.

Elliot Daly, although an extremely talented and highly regarded player, has never looked completely comfortable in the Full Back shirt for the men in white.

Watson has been injury ravaged in recent seasons but this position is where he plays week in, week out for Bath in the Premiership and Jones may be hoping that a big performance from him might ease one of his selection headaches.

Safe under the high ball, a good kicking game and a counter attacking vision to scare most defences in World Rugby, it is surely only up to Watson himself, his match sharpness and belief in his core skills that can stop him wrestling the Number 15 jersey from the current incumbent.

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)



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