Nineteen-year-old Leicester centre Manu Tuilagi will start for England Saxons when they take on Italy A this Saturday at Worcester’s Sixways Stadium. He is joined by team-mate Billy Twelvetrees, who partners him in the centre, while British and Irish Lions wing Ugo Monye and hooker Lee Mears will also make their return to international rugby.
Harlequins flanker Chris Robshaw captains the side in which there are five debutants in total – Tuilagi and Twelvetrees, Harlequins prop Joe Marler, Sale flanker James Gaskell and Northampton lock Christian Day.
Head coach Stuart Lancaster is delighted with his current crop, but says there’s every possibility he could lose any one of them to Martin Johnson’s World Cup squad later this year.
“It’s an exciting group and we’ve got a bit of everything in the squad,” said Lancaster. “There are young players coming through, those getting their opportunities after showing great form in the Aviva Premiership and some who are older and more experienced who are keen to get back in the senior squad all of whom have added great value to the group.
“These players have got everything to play for in a World Cup year and they know it. It’s a big chance for all of them and it’s important for them to play for each other. If they do that, the collective performance will enable them to benefit from it as individuals.”
The Saxons will go on to play Ireland Wolfhounds the following Friday night in Belfast, and Lancaster says it’s been a whirlwind so far.
“It’s been a short week to prepare to play Italy A but everyone’s bought into what we want to do and Worcester’s going to be a great place to play – a nice wide pitch and a passionate crowd – so it should be a great occasion,” continued Lancaster.
Full team to face Italy A
15 Mike Brown (Harlequins)
14 James Simpson-Daniel (Gloucester Rugby)
13 Manu Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers)
12 Billy Twelvetrees (Leicester Tigers)
11 Ugo Monye (Harlequins)
10 Stephen Myler (Northampton Saints)
9 Richard Wigglesworth (Saracens)
1 Joe Marler (Harlequins)
2 Lee Mears (Bath Rugby)
3 Alex Corbisiero (London Irish)
4 Graham Kitchener (Worcester Warriors)
5 Christian Day (Northampton Saints)
6 James Gaskell (Sale Sharks)
7 Chris Robshaw (Harlequins, captain)
8 Luke Narraway (Gloucester Rugby)
16 James Buckland (London Irish)
17 Duncan Bell (Bath Rugby)
18 George Robson (Harlequins)
19 Andrew Saull (Saracens)
20 Paul Hodgson (London Irish)
21 Brad Barritt (Saracens)
22 Olly Morgan (Gloucester Rugby)