Joe Marchant will make his first Test start against Italy in England’s final Rugby World Cup warm-up game in Newcastle, even though he is not in the squad for the tournament itself.
England named their 31-man squad on August 12 and Harlequins centre Marchant was absent from the final list, but head coach Eddie Jones has selected the 23-year-old alongside Piers Francis in the midfield to face Italy in what the head coach has termed “a mix-and-match selection policy”.
Ruaridh McConnochie, who was the only uncapped player named in the World Cup squad, will make his debut on the wing for a team that will be captained by Owen Farrell and will once again feature Billy Vunipola.
Marchant’s previous two appearances – against Wales last month and Ireland two weeks ago – have both come from the bench.
His inclusion raises doubts about the long-term fitness of Jonathan Joseph, who pulled out of the Ireland game with muscle soreness, and Henry Slade, who has not featured in any of the World Cup warm-up games due to a knee injury.
“We are delighted to be playing against Italy, one of our traditional Six Nations rivals and the game for us is another important step to develop our game fitness and game strategy,” Jones said in quotes published on England’s website.
“We have gone with a mix-and-match selection policy to develop our adaptability and the team’s ability to cope with any situation.”
#ENGvITA | England captain @owen_faz gives you the lowdown on preparations for Friday’s #QuilterInternationals match against Italy at St. James’ Park.#WearTheRose #CarryThemHome pic.twitter.com/RKpSWzDFGP
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) September 4, 2019
England: Anthony Watson, Ruaridh McConnochie, Joe Marchant, Piers Francis, Jonny May, Owen Farrell, Ben Youngs, Joe Marler, Jamie George, Dan Cole, Joe Launchbury, Courtney Lawes, Tom Curry, Mark Wilson, Billy Vunipola.
Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Ellis Genge, Kyle Sinckler, Charlie Ewels, Matt Kvesic, Willi Heinz, George Ford, Joe Cokanasiga.