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England make three changes to their starting team to face Japan

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

England have made three changes to their starting team following last weekend’s opening round Rugby World Cup win over Argentina – with Lewis Ludlam, Joe Marler and Kyle Sinckler all included in their pack to face Japan in Nice on Sunday night.

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The English secured an unexpectedly comfortable 27-10 victory in Marseille despite losing Tom Curry to a third-minute red card.

With the openside now banned for three games, a sanction that will be reduced to two once he successfully comes through tackle school, Borthwick has addressed the back row vacancy by promoting Ludlam for a first-ever start in the No8 role and shifting Ben Earl into the flanker position left vacant by Curry.

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There had been speculation that specialist No8 Billy Vunipola would come straight back into the starting team following the expiry of his recent ban. He was red-carded on August 19 in Dublin versus Ireland, a sending-off that was punished by a three-game ban cut to two via tackle school.

However, he has had to settle for a place on the bench in the south of France as Borthwick instead opted to elevate Ludlam following his incredibly energetic cameo last weekend versus the Pumas where he put in 11 tackles in his 14-minute appearance as a sub for skipper Courtney Lawes.

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

England’s other two XV changes are in the front row where Joe Marler has exchanged roles with Ellis Genge at loosehead while Kyle Sinckler, who is now fully over his recent injury issues, will start at tighthead. Dan Cole is excluded from the match day 23 as Will Stuart will continue to provide the bench back-up for that position.

Borthwick has named the exact same backline that started versus Argentina and the only tweak amongst his backline replacements is the naming of Ben Youngs as the reserve scrum-half on this occasion instead of Danny Care.

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The alterations mean that 26 of the 33-strong England squad at the tournament have now been named in at least one matchday squad.

The three backs still yet to feature at the finals are Henry Arundell, the suspended skipper Owen Farrell and Max Malins. The four forwards yet to be involved are David Ribbans, Bevan Rodd, Jack Walker and Jack Willis.

Borthwick said: “It was pleasing and important that we were able to start our Rugby World Cup campaign with a good win against Argentina last Saturday. It was incredible to see so many of our supporters in the stadium in Marseille.

“Their support means a great deal to the team. We hope that we were able to provide the supporters both here in France and at home with some great memories, and we are setting out to do the same again this Sunday in Nice.

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“After another good week’s preparation in Le Touquet, we are looking forward to the challenge of playing a Japan side that will be full of confidence following their comprehensive win over Chile in their opening fixture of the competition.”

England (versus Japan, Sunday – 9pm local time/8pm BST)
15. Freddie Steward (Leicester Tigers, 27 caps)
14. Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby, 74 caps)
13. Joe Marchant (Stade Francais, 20 caps)
12. Manu Tuilagi (Sale Sharks, 54 caps)
11. Elliot Daly (Saracens, 60 caps)
10. George Ford – vice-captain (Sale Sharks, 86 caps)
9. Alex Mitchell (Northampton Saints, 7 caps)
1. Joe Marler (Harlequins, 83 caps)
2. Jamie George (Saracens, 80 caps)
3. Kyle Sinckler (Bristol Bears, 63 caps)
4. Maro Itoje (Saracens, 71 caps)
5. Ollie Chessum (Leicester Tigers, 12 caps)
6. Courtney Lawes – captain (Northampton Saints, 101 caps)
7. Ben Earl (Saracens, 19 caps)
8. Lewis Ludlam (Northampton Saints, 22 caps)

Replacements:
16. Theo Dan (Saracens, 4 caps)
17. Ellis Genge – vice-captain (Bristol Bears, 53 caps)
18. Will Stuart (Bath Rugby, 30 caps)
19. George Martin (Leicester Tigers, 4 caps)
20. Billy Vunipola (Saracens, 70 caps)
21. Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 124 caps)
22. Marcus Smith (Harlequins, 25 caps)
23. Ollie Lawrence (Bath Rugby, 15 caps)

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