Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 December 2014

Youngs poised to earn first cap

Tom Youngs is being tipped to make his England debut
Tom Youngs is being tipped to make his England debut

England head coach Stuart Lancaster will this morning confirm his starting line-up to play Fiji in Saturday's opening QBE autumn international.

Leicester hooker Tom Youngs is expected to make his debut in place of the injured Dylan Hartley after being hailed by England's forwards coach Graham Rowntree as a future star. England's 23-man squad will include two more uncapped players in the shape of Wasps lock Joe Launchbury and Saracens prop Mako Vunipola, who are likely to start from the bench.

The selections of Youngs and Vunipola had long been signposted due to England's injury issues but Launchbury was a surprise choice ahead of the more experienced Mouritz Botha.

Lancaster opened a clear window into his selection thinking on Tuesday night when he released Botha, Ben Morgan, Phil Dowson and James Haskell to play for their clubs this weekend. Morgan's absence suggests strongly that Thomas Waldrom will be England's number eight, with Exeter's Tom Johnson and Northampton's Tom Wood vying for the blindside flanker role.

The rest of the England line-up virtually picks itself given Lancaster is missing a core of his senior players.

With Chris Ashton suspended and Ben Foden injured, Charlie Sharples and Ugo Monye will start on the wings with Manu Tuilagi set to line up in midfield along with Brad Barritt.

Toby Flood is expected to continue at fly-half alongside Danny Care, who was named man-of-the-match for his performance in England's 14-14 draw with the Springboks in June.

Care played as if he had a point to prove in Port Elizabeth after being axed from the England squad on disciplinary grounds in June.

The 25-year-old's international exile has made him more determined than ever to make the England scrum-half jersey his own. Care was axed from England's RBS 6 Nations squad after he was arrested - and subsequently convicted - for drink driving in the early hours of New Year's Day.

"It's all about rugby for me now. That's what I lost sight of a bit last year. I let my standards slip," Care said. "I've learned an awful lot in a short space of time. I had to grow up pretty quickly and I think I've done that."

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