England team news: Borthwick makes three changes for Japan

England make three changes to side that beat Argentina as props Kyle Sinckler and Joe Marler come in at the front row while Lewis Ludlam replaces the suspended Tom Curry for Japan Rugby World Cup clash

  • Veteran loosehead Marler has been promoted to No 1 in the place of Ellis Genge 
  • Sinckler has been reinstated after a difficult summer beset with injury struggles 
  • Daly says drop goals could be key to World Cup success after Ford’s heroics 

Joe Marler and Kyle Sinckler will start against Japan here on Sunday as Steve Borthwick has performed major front-row selection surgery for England’s second World Cup Pool D fixture.

Veteran loosehead Marler has been promoted to the No 1 shirt in place of Ellis Genge, while Sinckler has been reinstated at tighthead after a difficult summer of nagging injury and set-piece struggles. England scrum coach Tom Harrison spoke last week about urgent remedial work behind the scenes, saying: ‘He (Sinckler) has had some good parts and some parts to improve.

‘We’ve been working on some of Kyle’s set piece work to ensure his scrum is dominant. That’s been a big emphasis since I’ve come into this camp.’

Evidently, Borthwick and his assistants are satisfied that Sinckler has made sufficient strides in training to be restored to the place which he commanded for so long during Eddie Jones’ tenure in charge. The 30-year-old Bristol prop has a chance to show that he deserves to be restored at the top of the tighthead pecking order, after Dan Cole’s impressive shift last weekend in the opening win against Argentina in Marseille.

In the case of Marler, this starting appearance is reward for his selfless commitment since returning to the Red Rose camp. The 33-year-old Harlequin was recalled by Borthwick following a period out of favour – having met the new head coach to gauge whether he was genuinely in contention for a place in the England squad for this World Cup. Not only has Marler made it, he now has a stint in the XV after patiently biding his time as under-study for vice-captain Ellis Genge.

Steve Borthwick has named his starting XV to face Japan on Sunday evening at Stade de Nice

Joe Marler (right) is included as a reward for his selfless commitment since returning to camp

Elsewhere, as expected, Northampton captain Lewis Ludlam has been picked to start at No 8, after making 12 tackles in just 15 minutes on the field as a replacement against the Pumas last Saturday. The dynamic 27-year-old Saint will operate the base of the scrum, with Ben Earl shifting to openside in the absence of the banned Tom Curry.

With England now seeking some attacking fluency after their backs-to-the-wall opening win, which was founded on spirit, unity, defensive tenacity and smart kicking, Borthwick has retained the same back line which started against Argentina. 

This time, he will hope that the national team can remain at full 15-a-side strength in order to unleash the likes of Jonny May, Elliot Daly and Joe Marchant in space out wide, while Manu Tuilagi offers a hard-running midfield outlet for No 10 George Ford.

Billy Vunipola has been included among the reserve cast on the bench, having served a two-match ban for a high tackle against Ireland last month. While he will have been desperate to go straight back into the starting line-up, Borthwick and his assistants have evidently decided that they need maximum mobility to combat opponents who like to move the ball at pace, before sending on the No 8 to add carrying clout against a tiring defence.

England certainly won’t lack game-changing credentials among their replacements, with Theo Dan, Genge, the younger Vunipola brother, Marcus Smith and Ollie Lawrence among those primed to wreak havoc later in the game.

Lewis Ludlam will step up to fill the boots of Tom Curry, who picked up a two-match ban against Argentina

Billy Vunipola (right) makes the bench upon his return from a two-match ban for a high tackle against Ireland last month

England’s team to face Japan 

Steward (Leicester); J May (Gloucester), J Marchant (Harlequins), M Tuilagi (Sale), E Daly (Saracens); G Ford (Sale), A Mitchell (Northampton); J Marler (Harlequins), J George (Saracens), K Sinckler (Bristol); M Itoje (Saracens), O Chessum (Leicester); C Lawes (capt. Northampton), L Ludlam (Northampton), B Earl (Saracens). 

Replacements: T Dan (Saracens), E Genge (Bristol), W Stuart (Bath), G Martin (Leicester), B Vunipola (Saracens), B Youngs (Leicester), M Smith (Harlequins), O Lawrence (Bath).

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