Eddie Jones defends Farrell and Vunipola inclusion in last World Cup warmup

Rugby Union - Rugby World Cup warm-up match - Wales v England - Principality Stadium, Cardiff, Britain - August 17, 2019 England head coach Eddie Jones before the match Action Images via Reuters/Matthew Childs

Eddie Jones has defended his team selection for England's upcoming test match against Italy.

With the World Cup around the corner, England will be fine tuning when they face the Azzurri in Newcastle this Friday.

Although the warm-ups are traditionally used as an opportunity to experiment with starting XVs, Jones has named key man Billy Vunipola in his line-up for the fourth successive game.

Owen Farrell, starting at fly-half for the first time in the warm-up schedule, and Ben Youngs will provide some familiarity too.

Billy Vunipola has been in brilliant form (Photo by REUTERS/David Klein)

Jones' men have been in formidable form, bar a 13-6 reverse against Wales last month in the Principality Stadium. That followed a comfortable win against the same opponents, before romping to a 57-15 victory over Ireland when they returned to Twickenham.

Bath's Ruaridh McConnochie has been selected to make his debut as part of a back three along with Jonny May and Anthony Watson.

While McConnochie, Joe Marchant and Piers Francis are among some lesser experienced faces starting, the inclusion of Vunipola and Farrell represents a gamble should one of them get injured given how vital they have become.

Ruaridh McConnochie is set to make his England debut. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

When asked to explain why he has named such a strong line-up, Jones said: "For us the game is another important step to develop our game fitness and game strategy.

“We have gone with a mix and match selection policy to develop our adaptability and the team’s ability to cope with any situation.

"We have had a solid training week in Treviso with hot conditions so we are looking forward to testing ourselves against Italy on Friday night.

"Then we hop on the plane and are ready to go to Japan."

Jones also highlighted the game’s location, highlighting Test rugby being played outside of England’s traditional home.

He said: “We are playing at an iconic football ground and we know the area is an important one for rugby in the northern part of England," Jones added. We are looking forward to seeing and playing in front of the fans."

England kick off their World Cup campaign against Tonga on September 22.

England lineup:

Watson; McConnochie, Marchant, Francis, May; Farrell (c), Youngs; Marler, George, Cole, Launchbury, Lawes, Curry, Wilson, B Vunipola.


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