Saints stars Francis and Ludlam to make first World Cup starts against USA

Saints pair Piers Francis and Lewis Ludlam have both been named in England's team to take on USA in the Rugby World Cup on Thursday.

Tuesday, 24th September 2019, 11:27 am
Lewis Ludlam came on as a replacement during England's opening win over Tonga

In an England team that includes 10 changes to the one that saw off Tonga in their opening Pool C match on Sunday, Francis will start at centre alongside Jonathan Jospeph, while Ludlam is named in the back row.

It will be a first World Cup start for both players, although Ludlam was used as a second-half replacement in England's group opener.

Saints club-mate Courtney Lawes has been named on the replacements bench, with coach Eddie Jones forced into changes due to the short four-day turnaround between fixtures.

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Piers Francis starts at centre for England against the USA

Joe Cokanasiga has been picked on the left wing, replacing Jonny May, while captain Owen Farrell drops to the bench leaving George Ford to lead the team from fly-half.

Ruaridh McConnochie wins his second cap on the right wing with Elliot Daly continuing at full-back and Willi Heinz getting the nod ahead of Ben Youngs at scrum half.

There are three survivors from the pack that start against Tonga in prop Joe Marler, flanker Tom Curry and number eight Billy Vunipola.

Vunipola started throughout the warm-up series and continues his run of games after a frustrating spell of injury that saw him suffer three broken arms in a year.

Henry Slade is absent, openside flanker Sam Underhill drops out of the squad completely, and there is a return for back row Mark Wilson on the bench following his struggle with a knee injury.

Coach Jones said: "The four-day turnaround is something we experimented with against Japan last autumn and so the players have had some experience of it.

"You have to make sure the two days before the game are exactly the same as you would normally have for any other game.

"What I see now is players handling it really well but the game on Thursday will be the litmus test.

"It is our best 23 and we have looked at some players that would benefit not playing in this game, so have kept them out of the 23.

"But it is a great opportunity for another set of players to do the team proud."

"USA are a tough, physical team who are extremely well coached by Gary Gold. There are a number of players who our guys know really well and are a team we respect."

England team to play the USA in Pool C of the World Cup on Thursday, September 26 (ko 11.45am): E Daly (Saracens); R McConnochie (Bath Rugby), J Joseph (Bath Rugby), P Francis (Northampton Saints), J Cokanasiga (Bath Rugby); G Ford (Leicester Tigers, capt), W Heinz (Gloucester Rugby); J Marler (Harlequins), L Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs), D Cole (Leicester Tigers), J Launchbury (Wasps), G Kruis (Saracens), T Curry (Sale Sharks), L Ludlam (Northampton Saints), B Vunipola (Saracens). Replacements: J Singleton (Saracens), E Genge (Leicester Tigers), K Sinckler (Harlequins), C Lawes (Northampton Saints), M Wilson (Newcastle Falcons/Sale Sharks), B Youngs (Leicester Tigers), O Farrell (Saracens), A Watson (Bath Rugby).