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Heinz set for England debut in World Cup warm-up against Wales

The 32-year-old has also been named England’s vice-captain.

England’s Willi Heinz looks set to make his debut (Andrew Matthews/PA)
England’s Willi Heinz looks set to make his debut (Andrew Matthews/PA)

By Duncan Bech, PA

Willi Heinz will make his England debut against Wales on Sunday and is immediately installed as vice-captain despite his lack of Test experience.

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The New Zealand-born 32-year-old has been given the stage to prove he deserves a place at this autumn’s World Cup after being picked as the starting scrum-half for the warm-up Test at Twickenham.

Ben Youngs, England’s first choice in the position, is included on the bench for a game that takes place 24 hours before Eddie Jones finalises his 31-man squad for Japan 2019.

Also winning his first cap is Ruaridh McConnochie, the Bath wing who followed up a fine spell in sevens with a strong finish to the 2018-19 Gallagher Premiership season.

Lining up the other wing is Test Lion Anthony Watson, who will be making his first appearance for England since damaging his Achilles at the end of the 2018 Six Nations.

Owen Farrell misses out altogether so George Ford starts at fly-half and is also named captain of a side that contains 377 caps.

Piers Francis profits from Ben Te’o’s unexpected absence from the training squad for Wales by winning his fourth cap in a centre partnership alongside Henry Slade.

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Ruaridh McConnochie is also in line for his Red Rose debut (Andrew Matthews/PA)

For the first time, Sam Underhill and Tom Curry start in the same back row despite being specialist opensides with Curry packing down at six.

The first of back-to-back matches against Wales sees prop Dan Cole and locks Joe Launchbury and Charlie Ewels presented with their last chance to secure their World Cup places.

England’s build-up to the World Cup begins in earnest on Sunday and Jones re-iterated his determination to seize New Zealand’s crown as world champions.

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England head coach Eddie Jones is aiming to continue building ahead of the World Cup (Adam Davy/PA)

“We have completed our four weeks of pre-season training and now we have moved into four weeks of warm up games ahead of the Rugby World Cup,” Jones said.

“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 seven weeks.

“Our team selection and tactics in our next four games are all about developing a team capable of winning in Japan and our overarching target of being ready when we get on the plane on September 8 to win the World Cup.”

PA

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