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Chandler Cunningham-South handed first Test start as England name team to play Japan

By Jon Newcombe
Chandler Cunningham-South speaks with a Kiwi twang but was born in Sidcup, a sign of a globalised world (Photo by Silvia Lore/Getty Images)

Harlequins flanker Chandler Cunningham-South will make his first Test start in Tokyo on Saturday after being named in the England XV that takes on Japan – a match that can be seen exclusively live on RugbyPass TV, kick-off 06:50 BST.


All of the 22-year-old’s four caps up until now have come off the bench, but the former England U20 international has got the nod to make an immediate impact after being handed the number six jersey.

Sale Sharks loose-head Bevan Rodd, meanwhile, will make his first start for England this year in what will also be his fifth cap.

Rodd wears the number one jersey for the first time since the 71-0 rout of Chile at Rugby World Cup 2023.

He is partnered in the front row by the vastly experienced Dan Cole at tight-head, with captain Jamie George between them at hooker. George will be supported by no les than four vice-captains in Maro Itoje, Ben Earl, Henry Slade and Joe Marler

At lock, Itoje partners George Martin. The back row sees Cunningham-South joined in a dynamic back-row by Sam Underhill at openside and Earl, England’s standout performer over the last 12 months, at No.8.


In the half-back berths, scrum-half Alex Mitchell is paired with Marcus Smith at 10, with Fin Smith having to settle for a place on the bench. The midfield sees Ollie Lawrence named at inside centre with Slade at 13.

In the back three, Immanuel Feyi-Waboso starts on the right wing, with Tommy Freeman on the left and George Furbank selected at full-back to round off the starting line-up.

Amongst the replacements, Tom Roebuck will win his first England cap if he joins the action. The Sale Sharks wing takes his place on the bench alongside Theo Dan, Joe Marler, Will Stuart, Charlie Ewels, Tom Curry, Harry Randall and Fin Smith.

“We’re looking forward to the challenge of playing Japan at their National Stadium,” said head coach Steve Borthwick.


“Conditions in Tokyo mean we’ll need to be accurate, keep our discipline, and maintain a level of intensity in our performance from the first whistle to the last.

“We will need to be at our very best against an opponent who will want to play fast.”

England’s matchday starting XV: 15. George Furbank (Northampton Saints, 9 caps); 14. Immanuel Feyi-Waboso (Exeter Chiefs, 3 caps), 13. Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs, 62 caps) – vice-captain, 12. Ollie Lawrence (Bath Rugby, 24 caps), 11. Tommy Freeman (Northampton Saints, 8 caps); 10. Marcus Smith (Harlequins, 32 caps), 9. Alex Mitchell (Northampton Saints, 15 caps); 1. Bevan Rodd (Sale Sharks, 5 caps), 2. Jamie George (Saracens, 90 caps) – captain, 3. Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers, 112 caps), 4. Maro Itoje (Saracens, 81 caps) – vice-captain, 5. George Martin (Leicester Tigers, 12 caps), 6. Chandler Cunningham-South (Harlequins, 4 caps), 7. Sam Underhill (Bath Rugby, 35 caps), 8. Ben Earl (Saracens, 30 caps) – vice-captain

Replacements: 16. Theo Dan (Saracens, 12 caps), 17. Joe Marler (Harlequins, 93 caps) – vice-captain, 18. Will Stuart (Bath Rugby, 38 caps), 19. Charlie Ewels (Bath Rugby, 30 caps), 20. Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, 50 caps), 21. Harry Randall (Bristol Bears, 6 caps), 22. Fin Smith (Northampton Saints, 2 caps), 23. Tom Roebuck (Sale Sharks, uncapped)


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Jacque 30 days ago

Is this lot the best of England rugby? All Blacks are gonna lay waste in a couple of weeks!!!!!

finn 33 days ago

This looks like the starting XV they’ll go with against the ABs. There’s a lot to be happy with about this England side, but a few of the selection calls are a little bit baffling to me.

1) the only argument I can see for picking Marcus ahead of Fin is that he has more experience, so why not give Fin a chance to gain experience against Japan?

2) why is Itoje playing? He doesn’t need game time, and isn’t likely to be needed for England to dominate upfront. I understand Borthwick is going to ignore the 2400 minute limit, but this just feels gratuitous.

3) Chandler Cunningham-South seems like he struggles to last 80 minutes, so I’m slightly surprised he’s been giving the starting shirt. With a 6:2 split there wouldn’t be an issue, but with a 5:3 split Borthwick will be praying that there aren’t any back row or second row injuries.

The one other minor change I would have made is that I would have started Marler. Him being on the bench isn’t surprising, given Borthwick always wants to have one of his best scrummaging props (Marler & Cole) starting, and the other finishing the game, but in general I do just think its best to start with your best players. I am really happy that Rodd is being given a shot though - extremely underrated player.

Chris 33 days ago

I think Eddie is going to have egg on his face 👀 pretty handy team that

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