Chiefs duo in England side to face Italy
By Mark Stevens
Exeter Chiefs duo Luke Cowan-Dickie and Matt Kvesic have both been named on England's bench ahead of their Quilter International against Italy on Friday at St James’ Park in Newcastle (KO 1945 live on Sky Sports).
Cowan-Dickie - who is one of three Chiefs, alongside Jack Nowell and Henry Slade, to be included in Eddie Jones' 31-man squad for the upcoming Rugby World Cup in Japan - has featured in all three previous warm-up games against Wales and Ireland.
For Kvesic, meanwhile, it's a first inclusion in a senior England match-day squad since 2016 when he won the last of his three Test caps against Wales.
As expected, Slade and Nowell both miss the game through injury, but will travel with England to the Far East on Sunday.
As for the remainder of the England selection, a mix and match selection strategy sees Joe Marchant named at outside centre with Piers Francis at inside centre. Owen Farrell, who captains the team, starts at fly-half while debutant Ruaridh McConnochie is named on the right wing with Anthony Watson at full-back.
Dan Cole starts alongside Jamie George and Joe Marler in the front row with Joe Launchbury and Courtney Lawes named as the lock pairing. Mark Wilson will start at openside flanker with Tom Curry and Billy Vunipola making up the rest of the back row.
Jones said: “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. We have gone with a mix and match selection policy to develop our adaptability and the team’s ability to cope with any situation.
“We have had a solid training week in Treviso with hot conditions so we are looking forward to testing ourselves against Italy on Friday night. Then we hop on the plane and are ready to go to Japan.”
This is the first England Test match to be played at St James’ Park in Newcastle which hosted three Rugby World Cup fixtures in 2015.
Jones added: “We are excited to be playing in Newcastle. We are playing at an iconic football ground and we know the area is an important one for rugby in the northern part of England. We are looking forward to seeing and playing in front of the fans.”
England starting XV v Italy
15 Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby, 35 caps)
14 Ruaridh McConnochie (Bath Rugby, uncapped)
13 Joe Marchant (Harlequins, 2 caps)
12 Piers Francis (Northampton Saints, 7 caps)
11 Jonny May (Leicester Tigers, 46 caps)
10 Owen Farrell (Saracens, capt 72 caps)
9 Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 88 caps)
1 Joe Marler (Harlequins, 61 caps)
2 Jamie George (Saracens, 39 caps)
3 Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers, 88 caps)
4 Joe Launchbury (Wasps, 60 caps)
5 Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, 74 caps)
6 Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, 12 caps)
7 Mark Wilson (Newcastle Falcons/Sale Sharks, 14 caps)
8 Billy Vunipola (Saracens, 44 caps)
16 Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, 14 caps)
17 Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers, 11 caps )
18 Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins, 24 caps)
19 Charlie Ewels (Bath Rugby, 11 caps)
20 Matt Kvesic (Exeter Chiefs, 3 caps)
21 Willi Heinz (Gloucester Rugby, 3 caps)
22 George Ford (Leicester Tigers, 58 caps)
23 Joe Cokanasiga (Bath Rugby, 7 caps)