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England v Wales: Willi Heinz & Ruaridh McConnochie to make debuts

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Published in Rugby
Friday, 09 August 2019 03:28

Gloucester scrum-half Willi Heinz and Bath wing Ruaridh McConnochie will make their England debuts against Wales at Twickenham on Sunday as they make a late bid for Rugby World Cup selection.

Heinz will be vice-captain and partners skipper George Ford at half-back, with Piers Francis at inside centre.

Sam Underhill and Tom Curry play as flankers together for the first time.

Head coach Eddie Jones said his focus for the four warm-ups is on "developing a team capable of winning in Japan".

Both Heinz and McConnochie were surprise inclusions in the wider training squad, with Heinz now edging ahead of Ben Spencer in the battle to be Ben Youngs' back-up.

The New Zealand-born playmaker now looks almost certain of a place in the final 31-man World Cup squad, which is named on Monday.

"It's been a whirlwind few months," said Heinz.

"It's been incredible. I'm still pinching myself that I am here, and I just feel so grateful to be surrounded by quality players in this squad that have helped me prepare this week, and I'm really looking forward to Sunday."

Meanwhile, former England sevens star McConnochie only switched to the XV-a-side version last summer, but has done enough to play his way into contention, especially with concerns lingering over Jack Nowell's fitness.

McConnochie lines up in a back three with full-back Elliot Daly and club-mate Anthony Watson, who makes a first England appearance since March 2018 after overcoming a serious Achilles injury.

Elsewhere, young Northampton flanker Lewis Ludlam is set to make his debut off the bench, as are Harlequins centre Joe Marchant and Saracens hooker Jack Singleton.

"We have completed our four weeks of pre-season training and now we have moved into four weeks of warm-up games," Jones added.

"Our focus has now changed to match preparation and fitness, and creating a game that will stand up to the rigours of the tournament where we have to win seven games in sevens weeks."

Confirmed line-ups

England: Daly; McConnochie, Slade, Francis, Watson; Ford, Heinz; Genge, Cowan-Dickie, Cole, Launchbury, Ewels, Curry, Underhill, B Vunipola.

Replacements: Singleton, Marler, Williams, Kruis, Ludlam, Youngs, Marchant, Cokanasiga.

Wales: L Williams; North, J Davies, Parkes, Adams; Anscombe, G Davies; Smith, Owens, Francis, Beard, Wyn Jones, Wainwright, Tipuric, Moriarty.

Replacements: Dee, Jones, Lewis, Ball, Shingler, T Williams, Biggar, Watkin.

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