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England explain picking Joe Marchant and rushing back Joe Marler

By Liam Heagney

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Eddie Jones has named his England matchday 23 to face the Springboks this Saturday and among the major talking points were the inclusions of the two Joes from Harlequins – Joe Marchant as a starter on the right wing and Joe Marler as the loosehead replacement despite his recent isolation following his positive test for Covid-19. The six-cap Marchant has only started once in his six previous appearances for England but Jones believed the 25-year-old was the ideal choice to be this weekend’s No14 starter.

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Adam Radwan wore that particular shirt in the Autumn Nations Series opener versus Tonga and the jersey was then passed on to Manu Tuilagi for last weekend’s clash with the Wallabies in what was a first start for the midfielder at No14 in seven years.

Now the baton has been passed on again after the injury to skipper Owen Farrell paved the way for Tuilagi to return to the inside centre role he had against the Tongans. However, rather than take another look at Radwan, Jones had instead opted to select Marchant as the starting right-winger.

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Springboks legend Bryan Habana guests on RugbyPass Offload
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Springboks legend Bryan Habana guests on RugbyPass Offload

In his six Test caps so far stretching back to August 2019, Marchant’s only start came in the midfield in a pre-World Cup warm-up versus Italy. His other five appearances at international level have been off the bench and just two of the caps came as a winger – against Georgia last November and versus Canada last July. 

Despite this inexperience, Jones was adamant that Marchant was the ideal candidate to start on the basis of how the Springboks will look to play against England. “We know that South Africa is going to come through the air.

“They have a fairly stated game plan and winning the air is an important part of their game. We feel like Joe Marchant is one of the best in England in the air so he brings that ability to contest in the air really well. He is a strong defender and a strong runner with the ball so he suits the way we want to play this week.”

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Marchant’s Harlequins colleague Marler has been named on the England bench despite being in isolation since testing positive for Covid on November 8. His ten-day isolation period only ends on Thursday night, meaning that Friday’s captain’s run at Twickenham will be his only training session with his teammates in advance of Saturday’s game.     

“He has had a diet of reps and he has got a gym at his home, so he has been working out,” explained Jones about the loosehead who will provide cover for the starting Bevan Rodd, the 21-year-old prop who is winning just his second cap. “We are anticipating he will be out of isolation at 8 o’clock this evening [Thursday] and he will be ready to go. 

We don’t have a bomb squad like South Africa is so proud about but we have Joe Marler and we have Will Stuart and with the young guy (Nic) Dolly from Leicester, we are looking forward to taking them on in that last 20 and 30 minutes of the game.”

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