Billy Vunipola starts as Steve Borthwick recalls big guns for second England warm-up clash with Wales

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Billy Vunipola is set to make his first appearance for England under Steve Borthwick after the head coach named a strong side for Saturday’s World Cup warm-up clash with Wales.

A rotated English side were beaten by a similarly under-strength Welsh team in Cardiff last weekend, but Borthwick returns to something closer to his first-choice team for the reverse fixture at Twickenham.

Owen Farrell captains the side from fly-half and is joined in midfield by a fit-again Ollie Lawrence and Joe Marchant, who squeezed out Henry Slade from the 33-player World Cup squad on Monday.

With Tom Curry out with an ankle injury, Ben Earl is set to make his first England start in the back-row alongside club teammate Vunipola after 15 consecutive bench appearances to begin his international career, while starlet Henry Arundell is an eye-catching starter in the back three.

Ellis Genge is set to win his 50th cap if he comes on from the bench, while there is also a place among the replacements for Jonny Hill despite the lock being left out of Borthwick’s World Cup squad on Monday.


“We are very much looking forward to our return to Twickenham Stadium on Saturday, and the opportunity to play in front of our supporters again,” said Borthwick.

“England versus Wales is always a special fixture, and we are pleased to be playing the visitors again so soon.

“We’re delighted for Ellis who will win his 50th cap from the bench. He’s a brilliant professional, both on and off the field, and I’m sure Saturday will be a very proud moment for him and his family.”

Courtney Lawes, one of England’s two vice-captains alongside Genge, completes a well balanced back row trio that includes Saracens pair Earl and Vunipola.

The number eight shapes as one of England’s most crucial figures in France, with Borthwick electing not to select a specialist alternative to the World Cup, though all of Earl, Curry and Lewis Ludlam are comfortable at the base of the scrum.

George Martin is offered another starting opportunity partnering Maro Itoje at lock, while Hill’s involvement is necessitated by the absence of both Ollie Chessum and Dave Ribbans from the matchday squad.

Both second rows made the World Cup 33 ahead of Sale’s Hill but Chessum is still working his way back from a serious ankle injury and Ribbans went off for a head injury assessment in Cardiff last weekend.

“Jonny has trained with us throughout the week, and I am pleased to be able to name him in the match day 23,” Borthwick said. “I have no doubt he will provide a big impact for us off the bench.”

Wales selected a new-look side for the second of back-to-back warm-up fixtures between the two nations, with hooker Dewi Lake set to lead his country for the first time.

After Saturday’s encounter, England travel to Dublin to take on Ireland on Saturday 19 August before hosting Fiji at Twickenham on 26 August.

England to face Wales at Twickenham on Saturday 12 August (kick-off 5.30pm BST)

15. Freddie Steward (Leicester Tigers, 23 caps)

14. Henry Arundell (Racing 92, 7 caps)

13. Joe Marchant (Stade Francais, 16 caps)

12. Ollie Lawrence (Bath Rugby, 11 caps)

11. Elliot Daly (Saracens, 57 caps)

10. Owen Farrell (capt.) (Saracens, 106 caps)

9. Jack van Poortvliet (Leicester Tigers, 13 caps)

1. Joe Marler (Harlequins, 79 caps)

2. Jamie George (Saracens, 77 caps)

3. Will Stuart (Bath Rugby, 26 caps)

4. Maro Itoje (Saracens, 67 caps)

5. George Martin (Leicester Tigers, 2 caps)

6. Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, 97 caps)

7. Ben Earl (Saracens, 15 caps)

8. Billy Vunipola (Saracens, 68 caps)


16. Theo Dan (Saracens, 1 cap)

17. Ellis Genge (Bristol Bears, 49 caps)

18. Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers, 100 caps)

19. Jonny Hill (Sale Sharks, 20 caps)

20. Jack Willis (Toulouse, 10 caps)

21. Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 122 caps)


22. George Ford (Sale Sharks, 82 caps)

23. Max Malins (Bristol Bears, 19 caps)

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