Jones gam­bles on Vu­nipola No8 plays in fi­nal friendly

Borthwick says No 8 will ben­e­fit from fac­ing Italy Mar­ler ad­mits the pain of 2015 will never be healed

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Front Page - By Gavin Mairs RUGBY NEWS COR­RE­SPON­DENT in Tre­viso

Eng­land be­lieve the de­ci­sion to hand Billy Vu­nipola his fourth suc­ces­sive start of their World Cup warm-up se­ries is worth the risk as it is bring­ing the best out of the Sara­cens for­ward.

Vu­nipola was yes­ter­day named at No8 for to­mor­row’s fi­nal match against Italy in New­cas­tle be­fore the 31-man squad travel to Ja­pan two days later. The 26-year-old will be the only player to have started all four warm-up matches and, given his in­jury his­tory, in­clud­ing break­ing an arm three times last year, the de­ci­sion to start him again so close to de­par­ture is not with­out risk.

Vu­nipola, along with his brother, Mako, who is re­cov­er­ing from a ham­string in­jury, is one of the key sources of Eng­land’s ball-car­ry­ing mo­men­tum and the pair’s fit­ness is vi­tal to the side’s World Cup hopes.

Steve Borthwick, Eng­land’s for­wards coach, said that Vu­nipola was rel­ish­ing the op­por­tu­nity to start again. “Billy ab­so­lutely wants to play,” Borthwick said. “He’s a player who thrives on play­ing – that is how you get the best out of him. He doesn’t want to miss any game. Look at the back row – we have had some knocks and bruises. It is about what is right for each player.”

Owen Far­rell, who starts at fly­half for the first time this sum­mer, en­dorsed Borthwick’s view of Vu­nipola, who will start in a newlook back row with Mark Wil­son at open­side and Tom Curry on the blind side.

“Billy has been play­ing well and is try­ing to keep it go­ing. He en­joys get­ting the ball in his hands,” Far­rell said. “It’s im­por­tant for him to be play­ing in the big games in which we have been in­volved over the past four weeks. He has got a big smile on his face be­cause of it.”

Far­rell, who is also so piv­otal to Eng­land’s hopes of suc­cess, dis­missed any no­tion that he should also have been rested. “Not at all. I am ex­cited to get back out there and I am look­ing for­ward to what will be a tough test,” said Far­rell, who plays out­side Ben Youngs for the first time since the Six Na­tions. “The way the squad has been build­ing is bril­liant and the ex­cit­ing thing is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of keep­ing that mo­men­tum go­ing.”

In­jury con­cerns have forced Ed­die Jones’s hand in other ar­eas, with Joe Marchant, the Har­lequins cen­tre, handed his first Eng­land start in the mid­field de­spite not be­ing part of the 31-man World Cup squad. Char­lie Ewels and Matt Kvesic, who are also not in the squad, are named on the bench, which sug­gests that all three are next in line should in­jury re­place­ments be re­quired.

Henry Slade and Jonathan Joseph were not con­sid­ered for to­mor­row’s match due to knee and leg in­juries re­spec­tively, with Piers Fran­cis re­turn­ing to the side. Borthwick said there was no doubt about Slade’s or Joseph’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in the World Cup.

‘Billy wants to play. He’s some­one who thrives on play­ing – that is how you get the best out of him’

Eng­land’s first match against Tonga is on Sept 22 and Borthwick said: “Henry is do­ing re­ally well. He was run­ning yes­ter­day. It’s just a case of that next stage; that last stage. He’s not quite ready for this game but he’s close. Jonathan is also close. He’ll be in full train­ing to­mor­row. A mus­cle in his leg has needed some load man­age­ment.”

As ex­pected, Jones has named a back three ooz­ing pace. An­thony Wat­son starts at full-back in place of El­liot Daly and Ruaridh Mccon­nochie makes his de­but on the right wing, with Jonny May on the left wing. Joe Launch­bury and Court­ney Lawes are the lock pair­ing, while Dan Cole starts along­side Jamie Ge­orge and Joe Mar­ler in the front row.

Mar­ler, who is likely to spend some game time at tight­head to­mor­row, said he was lov­ing be­ing back in the squad af­ter re­vers­ing his de­ci­sion to re­tire from in­ter­na­tional rugby last year. Yet he ad­mit­ted that what­ever Eng­land achieve over the next two months, it would not ease the pain of the 2015 fail­ure.

“If I’d not come back, 2015 would still be the same,” Mar­ler said. “I’d feel the same about 2015 ir­rel­e­vant of what hap­pens at this World Cup. It’s com­pletely dif­fer­ent – 2015 was an ex­pe­ri­ence. It was c---. That’s the mildest I think I’ve ever put it, but it hap­pened. I’ll al­ways have that.

“If we win this World Cup it won’t then be like I can for­get about 2015, be­cause that will still have hap­pened. So it’s not for me to go I need to right some wrongs. Those mem­o­ries help in terms of ex­pe­ri­ence talk­ing to the other boys, but it’s also a hard one to re­late to Ja­pan be­cause a home World Cup is just com­pletely unique and I don’t think it will be any­thing like this.”

In the thick of it: Billy Vu­nipola will start his fourth pre-world Cup fix­ture

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.