Four debutants for Johnson's England
November 4, 2008
Harlequins flyer Ugo Monye will win his first cap at Twickenham on Saturday © Getty Images
Martin Johnson has included four debutants - Delon Armitage, Ugo Monye, Riki Flutey and Nick Kennedy - in the England team to start against the Pacific Islanders on Saturday.
Johnson's first squad selection as the England team boss also includes a potential fifth debutant in Dylan Hartley, the uncapped Northampton hooker who has been included on the bench.
Kennedy, the London Irish lock, toured with England to New Zealand in the summer but did not feature in either Test defeat. He will start in the second row alongside captain Steve Borthwick after being preferred to Wasps duo Tom Palmer and Simon Shaw. Armitage will start at full-back with Monye, who has been in electric form for Harlequins this season, on the left wing and Flutey at inside centre.
Flutey, the former Junior All Black and New Zealand Maori, qualified to play for England on residency grounds in September and he has been promoted straight into the team. Jamie Noon will start on Flutey's right shoulder at outside centre, while Danny Cipriani and Danny Care link up in the half-backs.
Up front, Harlequins' Nick Easter has returned to the side at number eight with dynamic Leicester flanker Tom Croft preferred to James Haskell on the blindside. In the front row, Bath tight-head prop Matt Stevens has kept out former captain Phil Vickery while Lee Mears retained the hooker's jersey despite competition from Hartley.
The new arrivals leave England light on experience in the back division, with only Jamie Noon and Paul Sackey boasting a caps total in double figures. On top of the three debutants, Danny Care only made his Test debut in the summer while Cipriani has started just one game for England.
Johnson said, "There are lots of new caps and new faces around but there is also some experience. We are happy with the guys we have picked. Monye and Armitage have been very impressive all season and in camp over the last 10 days.
"There are some new caps in there and it is exciting. These guys are bursting to get out on the field. It is an exciting back line. It is important to hit the ground running. It will be very fast and furious in the first 25 minutes. We need to control that as much as we can. I want to see us win. That is what we are there for."
The Pacific Islanders will provide a familiar and ferocious challenge to Martin Johnson's new-look England team at Twickenham this weekend.
The Islanders' head coach Quddus Fielea today named a starting XV built around some of the most dangerous attacking talent from the Guinness Premiership and across Europe. Their back division includes London Irish duo Seilala Mapusua, rated by many as the best centre currently on show in the Premiership, and devastating winger Sailosi Tagicakibau.
The Samoan powerhouses were both signed for London Irish by England's new attack coach Brian Smith and play their club rugby alongside red rose debutants Delon Armitage and Nick Kennedy. Mapasua - a New Zealand Academy team-mate of opposite number and another England newcomer Riki Flutey - will link in the Pacific Islanders midfield with Leicester's powerful Fijian centre Seru Rabeni.
Saracens' lightning runner Kameli Ratuvou lines up at full-back with Vilimoni Delasau, who scored blistering tries for Fiji against Wales and South Africa in the World Cup, on the right wing. With Saracens' canny scrum-half Mosese Rauluni captaining the team, fly-half Pierre Hola is the only member of the Islanders' back division not playing his club rugby in Europe.
Up front, Worcester hooker Aleki Lutui will pack down in between Glasgow prop Justin Va'a and Saracens' giant tight-head Census Johnson. And the Islanders will unleash Tongan loose-forward pair Nili Latu and Finau Maka, who both caused havoc in the England and South African ranks during the World Cup.
Opponents tomorrow, but for a long time they have been team-mates both for the Junior All Blacks and then at London Irish. Flutey makes his England debut in the creative hub alongside Danny Cipriani and Danny Care, charged with implementing Brian Smith's new attacking game-plan. He must kick intelligently so as not to concede careless posession. Flutey must also halt Mapasua, one of the best centres in the Premiership who boasts massive power and pace.
Produced one of the performances of the World Cup in Tonga's narrow defeat to South Africa and it will be vital for Rees to keep him neutralised at the breakdown tomorrow. England need to deny the Islanders the oxygen of turnover ball because they are so dangerous on the counter-attack. Rees began to fulfil his international potential on the summer tour when he stood toe-to-toe with All Blacks open-side Richie McCaw.
It is unusual for wing to be a key battle-ground - but the Islanders' primethreat comes from their devastating broken field runners and there are few better in the world than London Irish winger Tagicakibau. Monye is set to have a key role in England's new attacking framework, having been given his debut after scoring five tries in seven games for Harlequins. He has the kind of blistering pace to match the Islanders.
England: Delon Armitage (London Irish); Paul Sackey (Wasps), Jamie Noon (Newcastle), Riki Flutey (Wasps), Ugo Monye (Harlequins); Danny Cipriani (Wasps), Danny Care (Harlequins); Andrew Sheridan (Sale Sharks), Lee Mears (Bath), Matt Stevens (Bath), Steve Borthwick (Saracens, captain), Nick Kennedy (London Irish), Tom Croft (Leicester), Tom Rees (Wasps), Nick Easter (Harlequins)
Replacements: Dylan Hartley (Northampton), Phil Vickery (Wasps), Tom Palmer (Wasps), James Haskell (Wasps), Michael Lipman (Bath), Harry Ellis (Leicester), Toby Flood (Leicester)
Pacific Islanders: Kameli Ratuvou (Saracens and Fiji), Sailosi Tagicakibau (London Irish and Samoa), Seru Rabeni (Leicester and Fiji), Seilala Mapusua (London Irish and Samoa), Vilimoni Delasau (Montauban and Fiji), Pierre Hola (Kobelca and Tonga), Mosese Raulini (Saracens and Fiji), Justin Va'a (Glasgow and Samoa), Aleki Lutui (Worcester and Tonga), Census Johnston (Saracens and Samoa), Filipo Levi (Ricoh and Samoa), Kele Leawere (Hino Motors and Fiji), Semisi Naevo (NEC and Fiji), Nili Latu (NEC and Tonga), Finau Maka (Toulouse and Tonga)
Replacements: Sunia Koto (London Welsh and Fiji), Kisi Pulu (Perpignan and Tonga), Hale T Pole (Suntory and Tonga), George Stowers (World Kobe and Samoa), Sililo Martens (Scarlets and Tonga), Seremaia Bai (Clermont Auvergne and Fiji), Epi Taione (Harlequins and Tonga)
Referee: Matt Goddard (Australia)
Assistant Referees: Stuart Dickinson (Australia), Tim Hayes (Wales)