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Borthwick explains prop changes; picking Ludlam ahead of Vunipola

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Michael Steele/World Rugby via Getty Images)

Steve Borthwick has explained the logic behind the three changes he has made to his starting England team for this Sunday’s Rugby World Cup Pool D fixture with Japan in Nice.

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The head coach saw his side get off to a brilliant start with their 27-1o win over Argentina last weekend in Marseille despite losing Tom Curry to a third-minute red card.

Curry has since been suspended and his place in the back row has been taken by Lewis Ludlam. There had been expectation that specialist No8 Billy Vunipola, who is available following his suspension for last month’s red card versus Ireland in Dublin, would come straight back into the starting XV.

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However, that didn’t happen as Borthwick felt it best to promote Ludlam from the replacements to start for the first time at No8 at Test level following his 11 tackles in 14 minutes off the bench against the Pumas. That means Vunipola will only feature off the bench in his comeback match.

“We are in a great position to be in to have such quality players in the back row that somebody like Lewis can come in,” said Borthwick on Friday evening shortly after England arrived at their accommodation near Antibes following their flight south to Nice from their Le Touquet-Paris-Plage base camp.

Team Form

Last 5 Games

3
Wins
2
1
Streak
1
13
Tries Scored
15
-5
Points Difference
-19
2/5
First Try
1/5
2/5
First Points
1/5
1/5
Race To 10 Points
2/5

“I thought he did really well off the bench last week. I thought he was one of the best performers we had in the Six Nations, so to have the ability to start him and then bring Billy Vunipola off the bench later in the game, that’s a really strong position for us. Billy Vunipola is fully match fit.

“Lewis is a tremendous player. His ability to play six, seven and eight is incredibly valuable. You often talk about Lewis and the brilliant team man and leader he is, but I think people just don’t know how good a player he is, how talented a player he is.

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“He carries in the middle, he carries on the edge. As Courtney (Lawes) said, he made 12 tackles in 10 minutes last week. He jackals. He’s a tremendous player.”

Borthwick’s other two starting XV alterations were in the front row with Joe Marler promoted to start in place of the benched Ellie Genge and the fit-again Kyle Sinckler taking over from Dan Cole at tighthead.

“We have brought in Joe Marler and Kyle Sinckler to start, so what a great position we are in. I thought Ellis was excellent last week. I thought Joe came off the bench and was fantastic.

“Now there is a different role in terms of starting and finishing, but what a position to be in to have players like that, and Kyle back fully fit.

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“I said he was just about fit last week but he has had a great week’s training, over 60 caps, World Cup experience – again another player who performs on the big occasion. These players are eager to go against Sunday night. I expect them to go and perform again on another big occasion.

“Whenever you are selecting you are looking at what you want to do in the game, your game plan. You have also got to look at the opposition and we are playing against a very strong Japanese side that plays in a very different manner to other teams, a very skilled team and a very fast team, What we try to do is ensure we have the right team to get the result we want.

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“As with every selection I make what I think is the right selection for us to get the result that we want and you will see that across the team with a couple of changes I made I think this is the right team.

“I said last week that I expected the players to perform and they did. These are big players and they perform on the big occasions and I expect that they will go out in another big game on Sunday night here in Nice and put in another big performance.”

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