Lancaster trusts rookie 'advanced' guard

England head coach stands by decision to place uncapped pair on the bench against Fiji

If Stuart Lancaster has a reputation as a risk-taker when it comes to selection, it is not a quality he recognises in himself. England's head coach defended his decision to name two uncapped 21-year-olds – the Saracens prop Mako Vunipola and Wasps lock Joe Launchbury – on the bench for tomorrow's meeting with Fiji by arguing they were different propositions to 21-year-olds of previous red-rose generations.

"I haven't picked them because I'm operating some kind of youth policy," Lancaster said yesterday. "They're involved because I think they're ready. The regional academies have been operating hand in hand with the representative age-group teams for some years, but it's only now that we're seeing the likes of Mako and Joe come through. They're a different breed, far in advance of many of their predecessors in terms of their physical and technical development. They're also more robust in their mentality. They understand the reality of what it is to be a professional rugby player."

While Lancaster had few decisions to make regarding his starting line-up once the London Irish centre Jonathan Joseph and the Northampton lock Courtney Lawes withdrew through injury, the rapid rise of Vunipola to full international status is every bit as left-field as Launchbury's success in driving the hard- bitten Saracens forward Mouritz Botha out of the match-day squad. Yet should they both find themselves in the middle of the fray after 10 minutes tomorrow, the coach's heart will not miss a beat.

"I remember John Fletcher [the former Newcastle rugby director now working with the second-string Saxons set-up] saying to me years ago that I should keep an eye on Mako," Lancaster recalled. "He's extremely good in the ball-carrying department and now he's actually lost some weight – he's a mere 120kg [19st] these days – we think he can last a full Test match, which is vitally important.

"As for Joe, he would have been in South Africa with us last summer but for injury. I speak regularly to David Young [the rugby director at Wasps] and he tells me that Launchbury is the first name he puts down on the team sheet, despite his age. He's athletic and has good rugby intelligence. No one can argue that he's a development player. To me, he's the player in form. Mouritz is disappointed not to be involved, but that's the way it is. He knows what he has to do to get back in."

Fiji, travelling without some of their big-name players, have three Premiership regulars in their starting side: the Gloucester back-rower Akapusi Qera and two outsized centres in Sireli Naqelevuki of Exeter and Vereniki Goneva of Leicester. "If you look at their midfield alone, it's clear that they're not on a hiding to nothing," Lancaster commented.

Meanwhile, flanker Steffon Armitage, who plays for Toulon, has been cleared of doping charges by a French Rugby Federation disciplinary panel. He tested positive for morphine following last season's Top 14 final defeat by Toulouse.

England team 15 A Goode (Saracens); 14 C Sharples (Gloucester); 13 M Tuilagi (Leicester); 12 B Barritt (Saracens); 11 U Monye (Harlequins); 10 T Flood (Leicester); 9 D Care (Harlequins); 8 T Waldrom (Leicester); 7 C Robshaw (Harlequins; capt); 6 T Johnson (Exeter); 5 T Palmer (Wasps); 4 G Parling (Leicester); 3 D Cole (Leicester); 2 T Youngs (Leicester); 1 J Marler (Harlequins). Replacements D Paice, D Wilson, M Vunipola, J Launchbury, T Wood, B Youngs, O Farrell, 23 M Brown.

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Sport
England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
Arts and Entertainment
Ricardo by Edward Sutcliffe, 2014
artPortraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb go on display
News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'