Far­rell leads Eng­land against Tonga in Rugby

The Korea Times - - SPORTS -

SAP­PORO, Ja­pan (AFP) — Eng­land have paid Tonga the com­pli­ment of se­lect­ing their strong­est avail­able side for the teams’ World Cup Pool C opener at the Sap­poro Dome on Sunday.

Owen Far­rell leads a team fea­tur­ing 13 of the 15 that started in a record 57-15 thrash­ing of Ire­land at Twick­en­ham last month, with only wing Joe Cokanasiga and lock Ge­orge Kruis miss­ing.

Far­rell leads the team from cen­ter along­side pow­er­house mid­fielder Manu Tuilagi with the Le­ices­ter duo of Ben Youngs, who will be win­ning his 90th Eng­land cap, and Ge­orge Ford the half-backs.

Cokanasiga, passed fit fol­low­ing a knee in­jury, was not even able to win a place on the bench with An­thony Wat­son on the right wing in a back three fea­tur­ing full­back El­liot Daly and left wing Jonny May.

Up front, Joe Mar­ler, who only came out of in­ter­na­tional re­tire­ment in July, starts at loose­head prop while Mako Vunipola con­tin­ues his re­cov­ery from a ham­string in­jury.

The one sur­prise pick made by coach Ed­die Jones sees Courtney Lawes pre­ferred at lock in­stead of Kruis, who is on the bench.

“He’s in good form at the mo­ment. He’s mov­ing very well. We think he’s very suited to play against the Ton­gans,” Jones said of Lawes at a news con­fer­ence in Sap­poro af­ter an­nounc­ing his side. Billy Vunipola, the son of a Ton­gan fa­ther, starts at No 8 in a back-row fea­tur­ing two nat­u­ral open­side flankers in Tom Curry and Sam Un­der­hill.

With an av­er­age age of 26 years and 170 days, Eng­land’s start­ing XV are the sec­ond youngest side by twelve days they have fielded in a Rugby World Cup match.

Mean­while the 21-year-old Curry will be­come the youngest for­ward to play for Eng­land at a Rugby World Cup.

“It is what it is,” said Jones. “This is the best squad we’ve got for Eng­land. I’m not con­cerned about any lack of ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Eng­land’s only two pre­vi­ous meet­ings with Tonga, both at the World Cup, saw them thrash the Pa­cific is­lan­ders 101-10 at Twick­en­ham in 1999 and win 36-20 in Paris in 2007.

Nev­er­the­less, Jones re­mains wary of a Tonga side coached by Toutai Kefu — who played un­der him when he was the coach of Aus­tralia — even though they suf­fered a 92-7 ham­mer­ing by New Zealand in a warmup match ear­lier this month.

Reuters-Yonhap

Eng­land’s rugby play­ers Mark Wil­son, left, and Lewis Ludlam train ahead of their Rugby World Cup match against Tonga in Sap­poro, Hokkaido, Ja­pan, Thurs­day.

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