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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
tv
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
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

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum