x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

England hand four debuts

The England coach Martin Johnson names four uncapped players ahead of Saturday's Test match with the Pacific Islands.

BAGSHOT, ENGLAND // The England manager Martin Johnson stamped his mark on the England team when he included four uncapped players in the team to face the Pacific Islands at Twickenham on Saturday. Though his hand was forced by injuries, Johnson has made a bold statement for his first game in charge, ahead of further matches against Australia, South Africa and New Zealand. The back line has a particularly fresh look with Delon Armitage making his debut at full-back in the absence of the injured duo Nick Abendanon and Mathew Tait.

The former Junior All Black Riki Flutey, newly-qualified under the residency rule and voted the Premiership player of the year by his peers last season, starts at inside centre, with Ugo Monye debuting on the wing. There is an exciting 'Danny Double' at halfback where the fly-half Danny Cipriani, back to form and fitness ahead of schedule after his horrific ankle injury last season, teams up with Danny Care.

Cipriani and Care, both 21, have only five caps between them but both have the creative, defence-unlocking talent that England have been crying out for since the Jonny Wilkinson and Matt Dawson partnership in 2003. Jamie Noon has 30 caps and Paul Sackey, even though he made his debut only two years ago, has 15 but the other five backs have just five caps, and only two starts, between them. Nick Kennedy debuts in the second row alongside the captain Steve Borthwick, while the uncapped hooker Dylan Hartley, is on the bench, with the experienced Lee Mears given the starting berth.

Nick Easter, initially left out of the squad after injury and a dip in form, goes straight into the starting team at number eight after Luke Narraway was ruled out with a hamstring problem. England team: Delon Armitage, Paul Sackey, Jamie Noon, Riki Flutey, Ugo Monye, Danny Cipriani, Danny Care; Nick Easter, Tom Rees, Tom Croft, Nick Kennedy, Steve Borthwick (captain), Matt Stevens, Lee Mears, Andrew Sheridan.

Replacements: Dylan Hartley, Phil Vickery, Tom Palmer, James Haskell, Michael Lipman, Harry Ellis, Toby Flood. *Reuters