Stuart Lancaster hailed Kyle Eastmond’s creative potential after naming the Bath centre in the England side to play a South American XV in Montevideo tomorrow.
Eastmond will make his first senior start in an England side which shows 13 changes from the team which beat the Barbarians 40-12 last Sunday. Northampton flanker Tom Wood will be captain.
The England coach believes Eastmond has all the playmaking qualities to thrive at Test level. “He has got great feet and balance and he is very strong and powerful but what he has also got is great timing and execution of his passing,” Lancaster said.
“His ability to put people through holes is right up there at the highest level and we have to find the tools to allow him to execute that. He has an opportunity to do that from 12. He is different to Jason Robinson. Jason was a strike-running outside back. Kyle is very much a ball-player. He is very comfortable at first receiver and that is what makes him dangerous.”
Eastmond will form an ex-rugby league midfield with Northampton centre Luther Burrell, while Ben Foden gets a chance to press his Test claims with a start at full-back. Lancaster brought Eastmond on at full-back against the Barbarians, but as to his best position, the coach said: “With a strike-running full-back in Foden you ideally need a ball-player at 12 and Kyle provides us with that. I am open-minded about his development. This is a long-term opportunity for Kyle.”
Scrum-half Richard Wiggles-worth and flanker Tom Johnson are the only two players retained in the starting line-up from the Barbarians game. Johnson switches to openside to make room for Wood, one of five Northampton players in the starting line-up along with Burrell, Foden, lock Courtney Lawes and fly-half Stephen Myler.
The Saracens-bound No 8 Billy Vunipola is set to make his first senior England start the day after his brother, Mako, plays for the Lions in Hong Kong.
England XV: B Foden (Northampton); J May (Gloucester), L Burrell (Northampton), K Eastmond (Bath), D Strettle (Saracens); S Myler (Northampton), R Wigglesworth (Saracens); J Marler (Harlequins), D Paice (London Irish), H Thomas (Sale Sharks), C Lawes (Northampton), K Myall (unattached), T Wood (Northampton, capt), T Johnson (Exeter), B Vunipola (Wasps).
Replacements: R Buchanan (Harlequins), A Corbisiero (London Irish), P Doran-Jones (Northampton), D Attwood (Bath), M Kvesic (Worcester), L Dickson (Northampton), F Burns (Gloucester), J Joseph (London Irish).