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Rokoduguni set for England debut


Semesa Rokoduguni has been included in England's matchday squad to face New Zealand

Semesa Rokoduguni has been included in England's matchday squad to face New Zealand

Semesa Rokoduguni has been included in England's matchday squad to face New Zealand

England are set to hand Semesa Rokoduguni his debut in Saturday's showdown with New Zealand after including the Bath wing in the matchday squad for the QBE Series opener.

Rokoduguni, a serving soldier in the British Army who has seen action in Afghanistan with the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, is rewarded for an explosive opening to the season at the Recreation Ground.

The 27-year-old will start outside a previously untried centre pairing of Kyle Eastmond - the Aviva Premiership's form player - and Brad Barritt.

Eastmond experienced mixed fortunes during the summer tour to New Zealand, excelling in the first Test only to be replaced at half-time of the third when his defensive frailties were exposed.

With Manu Tuilagi ruled out for the entire autumn with a groin injury and Luther Burrell missing because of a hand problem, Eastmond has been given the chance to redeem himself.

The selection of 18-cap Barritt, a player England view as among the best defenders in the Premiership, offers a safety net at outside centre.

Filling the left wing slot will be Gloucester's Jonny May with Anthony Watson, another uncapped three-quarter from Bath, offering back three cover from the bench.

Watson is preferred ahead of Alex Goode in what is his first appearance in England's matchday 23.

Danny Care and Owen Farrell will form the half-backs with Farrell starting despite being restricted to only two starts for Saracens this season because of a thigh strain.

Wasps captain James Haskell misses out on a place in the back row with the established trio of Tom Wood, Chris Robshaw and Billy Vunipola on course to start while Ben Morgan supplies cover from the bench.

Uncapped Saracens lock George Kruis features among the 23, profiting from injuries to Joe Launchbury, Geoff Parling and Ed Slater.

Kruis could yet start the curtain-raiser of England's four autumn Tests if there is a delay in the birth of Dave Attwood's first child.

Attwood left camp on Tuesday afternoon after his fiancee Bridget went into labour, but the abrasive Bath forward is expected to be available for Saturday.

Props David Wilson and Joe Marler have recovered from respective calf and thigh injuries and are included among the 23.

"We've had a good few days' training on the back of last week," head coach Stuart Lancaster said.

"The players have worked really hard and everyone who has been in camp has pushed hard for selection and their attitude has been fantastic.

"We are excited about the squad we have picked and we are looking forward to getting back to Twickenham this weekend and taking on a team of the quality of New Zealand."

England squad to face New Zealand at Twickenham on Saturday, November 8:

Forwards (13): D Attwood (Bath), K Brookes (Newcastle), D Hartley (Northampton), G Kruis (Saracens), C Lawes (Northampton), J Marler (Harlequins), M Mullan (Wasps), D Wilson (Bath), B Morgan (Gloucester), C Robshaw (Harlequins, capt), B Vunipola (Saracens), R Webber (Bath), T Wood (Northampton).

Backs (10): B Barritt (Saracens), M Brown (Harlequins), D Care (Harlequins), K Eastmond (Bath), O Farrell (Saracens), G Ford (Bath), J May (Gloucester), S Rokoduguni (Bath), A Watson (Bath), B Youngs (Leicester).