Lancaster backs debutant duo Marler and Johnson to shine in Durban
09:19 GMT, 7 June 2012
England head coach Stuart Lancaster has insisted he had no hesitation in handing debuts to Joe Marler and Tom Johnson in Saturday's first Test against South Africa at Kings Park, Durban.
Lancaster announced his squad for the first match of the three-Test series on Thursday morning, confirming, as Sportsmail revealed on Wednesday evening, that the pair would start alongside Mike Brown, recalled at full-back.
Setting the style: Marler with his Mohican haircut
Hair apparent: Joe Marler's strong game in the loose and improving scrummaging has earned him a Test debut
England team to face South Africa in the first Test at Kings Park, Durban, on Saturday, June 9:
M Brown (Harlequins); C Ashton (Northampton), M Tuilagi (Leicester), B Barritt (Saracens), B Foden (Northampton); O Farrell (Saracens), B Youngs (Leicester); J Marler (Harlequins), D Hartley (Northampton), D Cole (Leicester), M Botha (Saracens), G Parling (Leicester), T Johnson (Exeter), C Robshaw (Harlequins, capt), B Morgan (Scarlets).
Replacements: L Mears (Bath), P Doran Jones (Northampton), T Palmer (Stade Francais), P Dowson (Northampton), L Dickson (Northampton), T Flood (Leicester), J Joseph (London Irish).
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Harlequins prop Marler, 21, gets his
chance at loosehead with Alex Corbisiero struggling with a knee injury,
while Exeter flanker Johnson, 29, starts at blindside with both Tom
Croft and Tom Wood ruled out of the tour and James Haskell having just
arrived from a spell with New Zealanders Otago Highlanders.
Lancaster was full of praise for the
pair. 'Tom and Joe have had great seasons at their clubs and have worked
really hard to get this chance, both are in great form and have really
impressed in training,' he said.
Lancaster also explained his
decision to move Ben Foden from full-back to wing to cover for David
Strettle's injury and to accomodate Marler's fellow Quin Brown.
'Equally, Mike Brown has been outstanding for Harlequins,' added Lancaster.
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Late bloomer: Tom Johnson makes his debut aged 29
There is a fourth change
to the side that beat Ireland in England's final Six Nations game with
Ben Youngs returning at scrum-half in place of Lee Dickson, who drops to
Lancaster explained that Youngs' selection was based on
form, while he also revealed that fellow scrum-half Danny Care will play
in the midweek tour match against SA Barbarians South
'Selection is competitive in lots of positions, particularly at scrum-half,' Lancaster said.
Time on the ball: Marler preparing for the first Test with South Africa
Elevation: Mike Brown (centre) will start as full back
'We are really pleased with Ben's form and he knows our systems well.
if he gets his chance from the bench, I am sure will make an impact and
Danny will get his opportunity to press his case, as will the others,
in the first midweek game on Wednesday.
'We have made no secret of
how tough this series will be but it is an opportunity we are looking
forward to and I am confident that we can perform.'
Putting the time in: Chris Robshaw prepares for opening game against South Africa
Hair-raising: Marler scrummages during England training in Durban
Owen Farrell starts alongside Youngs at fly-half with Toby Flood preferred to Charlie Hodgson among the replacements.
uncapped player, London Irish centre Jonathan Joseph, is also named
among the replacements ahead of the likes of Christian Wade and Ugo
Monye after an impressive two-try performance agains the Barbarians at
Twickenham last month.