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.

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
i100

Other places that have held independence referendums
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur
film

It scooped up an unprecedented 11 Academy Awards when it was first remade in 1959

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
News
news

Arts and Entertainment
Blossoming love: Colin Firth as Stanley and Emma Stone as Sophie, in 'Magic in the Moonlight'
film

Actors star in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
Arts and Entertainment
Maxine Peake plays Hamlet at Manchester's Royal Exchange
theatreReview: Maxine Peake brings emotional ferocity to Shakespeare's starring part
News
news

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

Travel
travel

...and the perfect time to visit them

Sport
Jonas Gutierrez (r) competes with Yaya Toure (l)
football

Newcastle winger reveals he has testicular cancer - and is losing his trademark long hair as a result

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

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week