Five England players to look out for against Italy

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Just one more warm up game stands ahead of Eddie Jones’ England and a flight to Japan as they face Italy at St James Park on Friday night. Last Word on Rugby’s Katy Homewood looks at five England players to look out for against Italy.

Joe Marchant

Eddie Jones does what Eddie Jones does best – surprising us.

Joe Marchant claims the outside centre shirt despite being omitted from the 31-man World Cup squad. The call up isn’t too surprising when taken in context.

Both Johnathan Joseph and Henry Slade are carrying injuries. Marchant has shown his talent at Harlequins this season and just what he is capable of.

He is a centre that hunts the ball and will run a very strong line when needed. His ability to score tries is notable, coming joint third in last season’s top try scorers.

He is certainly still on Jones’ radar with the current injury concerns. He could find himself on a flight to Japan later this month.

Ruaridh McConnochie

Third time lucky for the Bath boy as McConnochie finally makes his England debut, after being pulled out of both starting line-ups against Wales through hamstring troubles.

McConnochie hasn’t been playing 15s long having made the switch last November. He moved following a successful sevens career, in which he won sliver in Rio 2016 with Team GB.

In 17 matches for Bath his average meters gained is a phenomenal 16.4m and made 29 clean breaks last season. His sevens background is noticeable, especially in his quick acceleration and ability to break away from defenders.

Although he is one of the surprise selections of the squad bound for Japan, by the time the tournament is over you will definitely know who Ruaridh McConnochie is.

Mark Wilson

Wilson returns to the back row at open-side flanker for his first start of the summer. Alongside him, Tom Curry gets the six shirt and Billy Vunipola starts his fourth consecutive match from No8.

Wilson has some big shoes to fill following the dynamic duo of Sam Underhill and Tom Curry that was presented against Ireland. Wilson is an extremely reliable player with a 94% tackle success rate last season with Newcastle.

You can also find the forward in the right places come try time and is often lurking behind a try assisting offload. With Lewis Ludlam hot on his heels, Wilson will no doubt be putting in a huge shift at seven on Friday night.

Dan Cole

Dan Cole is a player that gets overlooked. The Leicester prop was one of Tigers’ most reliable players in an unreliable 2018/19 campaign.

Cole is known for his fantastic scrummaging ability and is one of the best tighthead props in world rugby. Since being dropped from the England squad last year, Cole re-found his excellence and will be taking it to Japan.

Jones has mentioned in the past that experience isn’t everything. Nevertheless, with over 80 international caps and two Lions tours to his name Cole will be crucial to keeping England’s cool throughout their time in Japan.

Anthony Watson

Watson is back in the England starting line-up and this time at fullback. Throughout Jones’ reign over England there has been much controversy to Elliot Daly playing out of club position to claim the 15 shirt.

With Daly looking like Eddie’s first choice fullback it will be interesting to see how Watson plays on Friday night. It will be Watson’s fourth cap at fullback and will be his first outing at 15 since his injury last month.

His adaptable playing style suits the fullback position and he is used to playing there with Bath on occasion.

Watson is a player that Jones can trust under high ball and given the expected weather conditions on Friday night, Italy will no doubt try and kick the ball leaving Watson under pressure.


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