Saints centre Francis on England bench for first Test

Piers Francis will be on the England bench this weekend (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
Piers Francis will be on the England bench this weekend (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

Piers Francis has been named among the replacements for England's first Test against South Africa in Johannesburg on Saturday.

The Saints centre, who has three caps to his name, recently impressed against the Barbarians, scoring two tries in the final clash before the Red Rose jetted off on tour.

And he has been rewarded with a place on the bench this weekend.

Francis has made 21 appearances for Saints since joining from Super Rugby side the Blues last summer.

And England boss Eddie Jones is an admirer of the 27-year-old, singling him out for praise after the defeat to the Barbarians at Twickenham last month.

Saracens star Owen Farrell will captain England in the absence of Dylan Hartley, while Mako Vunipola will run out for his 50th cap.

Jones has included seven players in the starting 15 who were involved in the Premiership final between Saracens and Exeter Chiefs two weekends ago.

Nick Isiekwe will make his first start for England, while two uncapped players - Brad Shields and Ben Spencer - are named as replacements.

Jones said: “We have had a really good week in preparation for this weekend and we are pleased with the way the squad has come together.

“Owen Farrell has settled in well to his new role, with the senior players supporting him, and there is a good feeling within the camp.

"We want to do something special on this tour and the players are all incredibly excited about this challenge and opportunity we have.

“Ellis Park is the spiritual homeland of South African rugby and the Springboks play to another level on that ground, so we know we have to raise our game physically early on and be enormously accurate in the way we play.”

England will play South Africa in three Tests, in Johannesburg (June 9), Bloemfontein (June 16) and Cape Town (June 23). All matches kick off at 5.05pm local time (4.05pm BST).

England team to face South Africa
15 Elliot Daly (Wasps, 18 caps)
14 Jonny May (Leicester Tigers, 34 caps)
13 Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs, 10 caps)
12 Owen Farrell (Saracens, 58 caps)
11 Mike Brown (Harlequins, 69 caps)
10 George Ford (Leicester Tigers, 45 caps)
9 Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 74 caps)
1 Mako Vunipola (Saracens, 49 caps)
2 Jamie George (Saracens, 25 caps)
3 Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins, 10 caps)
4 Maro Itoje (Saracens, 19 caps)
5 Nick Isiekwe (Saracens, 2 caps)
6 Chris Robshaw (Harlequins, 64 caps)
7 Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, 1 cap)
8 Billy Vunipola (Saracens, 34 caps)
Replacements
16 Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, 5 caps)
17 Joe Marler (Harlequins, 56 caps)
18 Harry Williams (Exeter Chiefs, 8 caps)
19 Brad Shields (Hurricanes/ Wasps, 0 caps)
20 Nathan Hughes (Wasps, 14 caps)
21 Ben Spencer (Saracens, 0 caps)
22 Piers Francis (Saints, 3 caps)
23 Denny Solomona (Sale Sharks, 2 caps)