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Six Nations 2013: Tom Croft and Joe Launchbury named in England XV for Wales game

Launchbury passed fit and Croft returns for England's Grand Slam decider with Wales

Rob Wildman


10:16 GMT, 14 March 2013



14:12 GMT, 14 March 2013

England today named key forward Joe Launchbury to start against Wales on Saturday despite the lock sustaining an elbow injury last Sunday against Italy.

The inform Wasps lock has had treatment all week on an elbow injury raising concern that he would miss out on England’s attempt at winning a first Grand Slam 2003.

But Launchbury was given the all-clear
this morning for a Cardiff showdown which will see England field a team
showing four changes to the one which started out in the disappointing
18-11 win over Italy.

Scroll down for video

Back in action: Tom Croft is set to start for England for the first time since breaking his neck

Back in action: Tom Croft is set to start for England for the first time since breaking his neck

As predicted by Sportsmail, fly half
Owen Farrell, scrum-half Ben Youngs and flanker Tom Croft all return
while prop Joe Marler has won the vote ahead of Mako Vunipola at loose

The four players who miss out – fly
half Toby Flood, scrum-half Danny Care, flanker James Haskell and
Vunipola – are all included on the England bench.

England's head coach coach Stuart
Lancaster said: ‘We want to finish well on what will be a fantastic
occasion in Cardiff. It will be a great experience for our English team.

'Every single player, whether they are
in the 23 or not this Saturday, has contributed to getting us in this
position and they should be proud of that.

'The support of the country has been great throughout the tournament and I am sure they will be right behind us come 5-o-clock.'

He added: 'Tom's extra lineout
presence will hopefully give us an advantage. He is clearly a quality
player and he has had a great impact since he has come back into the

Ready for battle: Croft will try and help England win the Grand Slam

Ready for battle: Croft will try and help England win the Grand Slam

Ready to go: Launchbury has been passed fit to face Wales

Ready to go: Launchbury has been passed fit to face Wales

England team

'I see it as an 80-minute game. James Haskell's impact coming off the bench will serve us better.'

Lancaster took the same approach to his decision to start with Marler and use Mako Vunipola as a high-impact replacement.

“Both props will play a big contribution. We believe Joe will give us the solidity in the scrum and then as the game wears on Mako will come on and do his thing.”

Although Flood kicked all of England's points against Italy and did little wrong, Farrell has reclaimed the fly-half jersey after shaking the thigh injury he sustained against France.

The Saracens fly-half did not enjoy his best day against Les Bleus but he will bring control and defensive ferocity which England will need in the cauldron of the Millennium Stadium.

“Clearly Wales will target that area and they will be coming down that channel and I am sure Owen will be ready for some work. We have got a big challenge coming our way but we will be ready for it,' Lancaster said.

Farrell and Youngs managed the game expertly against Ireland in Dublin earlier in the tournament and Lancaster will want them to replicate that performance.

England are chasing their first Grand Slam in a decade but Saturday's clash is a genuine title decider, with Wales capable of retaining their crown.

Inside Line: Season 3, Episode 9

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Lancaster is yet to lose an away game in the Six Nations and he believes those experiences and the memory of beating New Zealand at home in December will stand his men in good stead.

'When you look at this Welsh side, there are not many weaknesses,' Lancaster said.

'It will take an outstanding effort but we have done it before, we have been to away games and won. We have played the best side in the world at home and won.

'We have to deal with the occasion and play with composure and accuracy. There is a quiet self-belief.'

SIX NATIONS 2013: England XV to play France

Tuilagi recalled by Lancaster in one of three changes made by England for Le Crunch

Rob Wildman


10:45 GMT, 21 February 2013



12:15 GMT, 21 February 2013

Stuart Lancaster has urged England to vary their attack against France after confirming his team for Saturday’s RBS Six Nations match at Twickenham.

As predicted by Sportsmail this week England’s head coach has decided to make three changes for the third match en route to a possible Grand Slam.

Following the win over Ireland, Lancaster this morning announced he had recalled centre Manu Tuilagi, hooker Dylan Hartley and flanker Courtney Lawes.

Centre of attention: Manu Tuilagi runs with the ball during England training at Pennyhill Park on Tuesday

Centre of attention: Manu Tuilagi runs with the ball during England training at Pennyhill Park on Tuesday


15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 Mike Brown, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Ben Youngs; 1 Joe Marler, 2 Dylan Hartley, 3 Dan Cole, 4 Joe Launchbury, 5 Geoff Parling, 6 Courtney Lawes, 8 Tom Wood, 7 Chris Robshaw (captain).

Replacements: 16 Tom Youngs, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 David Wilson, 19 James Haskell, 20 Thomas Waldrom, 21 Danny Care, 22 Toby Flood, 23 Billy Twelvetrees.

All three were substitutes in the win
in Dublin and replace Billy Twelvetrees, Tom Youngs and James Haskell
who are all on the bench this time.

Lancaster is looking to use the
firepower of the trio to tackle a French team who have had endure a
disastrous Six Nations so far in losing to Italy and Wales.

Lancaster explained: ‘We thought long and hard about changing a winning team which did so well against Ireland.

‘But we believe that Dylan, Courtney
and Manu are ready for the opportunity and allow us to vary our play,
while the bench will add impact and energy as the game unfolds in the
second half.

‘The players are really looking
forward to getting back to Twickenham. The atmosphere in the stadium is
fantastic and hopefully the crowd can get behind us in what is sure to
be a great challenge against a motivated and physical French team.’

Meanwhile, France coach Philippe Saint-Andre has made eight changes to his starting line-up for Saturday's match.

Making way: Billy Twelvetrees will be on the bench at Twickenham despite his superb show against Scotland

Making way: Billy Twelvetrees will be on the bench at Twickenham despite his superb show against Scotland


15 Yoann Huget, 14 Vincent Clerc, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Benjamin Fall, 10 Francois Trinh-Duc, 9 Morgan Parra;
1 Thomas Domingo, 2 Benjamin Kayser, 3 Nicolas Mas, 4 Christophe Samson, 5 Yoann Maestri, 6 Yannick Nyanga, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Thierry Dusautoir (captain).

Replacements: 16 Dimitri Szarzewski,
17 Vincent Debaty, 18 Luc Ducalcon,
19 Jocelino Suta, 20 Antonie Claassen,
21 Maxime Machenaud, 22 Frederic Michalak, 23 Florian Fritz.

Saint-Andre has opted for a new half-back pairing, with Morgan Parra and Francois Trinh-Duc replacing Maxime Machenaud and Frederic Michalak following Les Bleus' 16-6 defeat against Wales at the Stade de France 12 days ago.

Vincent Clerc returns on the right wing, with Wesley Fofana switching to his preferred role of centre for the Twickenham encounter.

Saint-Andre's team head to England after losing their opening two Five or Six Nations games for the first time since 1982.

Wales' success in Paris followed a 23-18 loss in Italy six days previously, meaning the wooden spoon has now become a distinct possibility for the pre-tournament favourites.

'After two defeats in the tournament, we wanted competition and freshness in the squad,' Saint-Andre said. 'We have to have the freshness and enthusiasm.

'We will prepare a lot of fight in Twickenham.'

Stuart Lancaster makes six changes to England team for South Africa game

Youngs replaces Care at scrum-half as Lancaster makes six changes for Springboks game



10:59 GMT, 22 November 2012

Ben Youngs will start at scrum-half for England on Saturday after head coach Stuart Lancaster revealed six changes to his team to face South Africa.

Lancaster, as expected, swung his selection axe following the disappointment of the 14-20 defeat by the Wallabies last Saturday, but the decision to start Youngs ahead of Danny Care was unexpected.

Youngs, who will start an international alongside brother Tom for the first time, is joined by three other substitutes from last weekend in 21-year-old Wasps lock Joe Launchbury, who will be making his first start, flanker Tom Wood and Mike Brown, the Harlequins full-back.

Starting place: Ben Youngs will start for England at scrum half as Stuart Lancaster rings the changes ahead of South Africa game

Starting place: Ben Youngs will start for England at scrum half as Stuart Lancaster rings the changes ahead of South Africa game

First start: Joe Launchbury will make his first start for England against South Africa

First start: Joe Launchbury will make his first start for England against South Africa


Starting XV: Goode (Saracens); Ashton (Saracens), Tuilagi (Leicester), Barritt (Saracens), Brown (Harlequins); Flood (Leicester), Ben Youngs (Leicester); Corbisiero (London Irish), Tom Youngs (Leicester), Cole (Leicester), Launchbury (Wasps), Parling (Leicester), Wood (Northampton), Robshaw (Harlequins, capt), Morgan (Gloucester).

Subs: Paice (London Irish), Wilson (Bath), Vunipola (Saracens), Botha (Saracens), Haskell (Wasps), Care (Harlequins), Farrell (Saracens), Joseph (London Irish).

Brown is named on the wing for Gloucester’s Charlie Sharples, who was dropped from the squad on Tuesday along with two other starters from last weekend in Leicester No 8 Tom Waldrom and Exeter flanker Tom Johnson.

The other two changes are as expected in recalls for London Irish loose-head prop Alex Corbisero and Gloucester No 8 Ben Morgan. They replace the injured Harlequins prop Joe Marler and Waldrom respectively.

For Launchbury, the first start comes after an impressive performance as a substitute when replacing Wasps colleague Tom Palmer, who is omitted from the 23-man squad all together.

Taking his chance: Tom Wood came off the bench for England against Australia but will start against South Africa

Taking his chance: Tom Wood came off the bench for England against Australia but will start against South Africa

He is being treated for a calf strain and his place on the bench goes to Saracens’ South African-born Mouritz Botha. Two other new names among the reserves are London Irish centre Jonathan Joseph and Wasps back row James Haskell.

Lancaster said: ‘There were some tight call, which is what you want as coaches, but the players we have brought into start have been training well, will bring a real motivation to make the most of their opportunity.’


All change! There's a hint of panic in an England selection which shows six changes from last week.

Who wants to be the holder of the left wing spot Mike Brown is the third incumbent following Ugo Monye and Charlie Sharples this autumn.

England have not cracked the midfield impasse. If Stuart Lancaster and his team of coaches had been really brave they would have stuck Manu Tuilagi on the left wing.

But that would have been admittance that Manu (he's a lovely, friendly lad) is failing at the top level to learn the art of passing.

Manu has only one direction and that's straight, a bit like the M1 coming out of Leicester.

It works two thirds of the time but against the very best it's easy to defend as the Wallabies showed.

Six changes is more than the Lancaster coaching book recommends, but putting my English Red Rose on it will hopefully do the trick.

But for England to win they will have to, in the words of my niece, 'for goodness sake, man up.'

LIVE: England v Australia rugby

LIVE: England v Australia: All the action from Twickenham as it happens



15:49 GMT, 17 November 2012

The second leg of England's QBE autumn international series sees Australia come to Twickenham. Stuart Lancaster's side will be looking to build on last week's win over Fiji. Sportsmail brings you the action.

England 14 Australia 20

ENGLAND: Goode; Ashton, Tuilagi, Barritt, Sharples; Flood, Care; Marler, T Youngs, Cole; Palmer, Parling; Johnson, Waldrom, Robshaw (captain).

Replacements: Paice, Wilson, Vunipola, Launchbury, Wood, Youngs, Farrell, Brown.

AUSTRALIA: Barnes; Ioane, Ashley-Cooper, Tapuai, Cummins; Beale, Phipps; Robinson, Polota-Nau, Alexander; Timani, Sharpe (captain); Dennis, Palu, Hooper.

Replacements: Moore, Slipper, Kepu, Samo, Gill; Sheehan, Harris, Mitchell.

53min: PENALTY! England 14 AUSTRALIA 20

I told you! It's not looking great for England as they go six points down.

51min: Australia are looking pretty rampant. They are pressing England all the time and they've won another penalty. Barnes is odds on to put this one over too…

50min: PENALTY! England 14 AUSTRALIA 17

Another penalty, another three points for Berrick Barnes.

Meanwhile, Marler and Johnson are off for Vunipola and Wood.

49min: Cummins is an exciting player to watch! He's such an outlet for the Australians and it takes a couple of England defenders to stop him scoring his second try.

It's all Australia in the second half. Whatever Lancaster said at half-time, his players don't appear to have listened.

47min: Australia have battled well since the re-start and have kept the ball well. England are struggling to get any possession whatsoever and Marler gives away a silly penalty well into the Aussie half.

44min: PENALTY! England 14 AUSTRALIA 14

Berrick Barnes has another easy penalty, and makes no mistake to knock it between the sticks.

40min: Polota-Nau has been taken off for Moore. He took a nasty-looking hit in the first half, but I'm told it's a tactical change by Robbie Deans.


15.33: The second half is moments away folks. This one is by no means in the bag for England. Plenty of work to be done! The players are making their way back out.

15.27: England started this Test match painfully slowly, and they are pretty fortunate to go in with their noses in front.

Tuilagi's try was the only chance they had to score in the first half.

It's frustrating because the few times England have made their way forward, Australia have look there for the taking.

15.19: HALF-TIME! What a way to end the half!

Australia have probably had the better of the first half, and they'll be devastated that Tuilagi's try was given. It was the correct decision though.

He was in play and the ball just scraped that line before the Australians scrambled it away.

39min: TRY! ENGLAND 14 Australia 11

Just about given! Manu Tuilagi is so strong. He's like a battering ram and smashes his way towards the try-line.

Wallop: Manu Tuilagi smashed his way through to score a try

Wallop: Manu Tuilagi smashed his way through to score a try

He slides to get the ball down on the left and JUST gets it down before Phipps slaps the ball away.

In keeping with Barnes and Flood going blow for blow, it's the Englishman's turn to miss a conversion. It remains 14-11

36min: TRY! England 9 AUSTRALIA 11

Cummins bursts down that right again after a dreadful kick by England offers Australia an opportunity. The crowd want it chalked off for a suspect pass that appeared to go forward.

No luck though. Barnes misses the conversion from miles out on the right.

34min: PENALTY! ENGLAND 9 Australia 6

It's Flood's easiest one of the day. With a nice, smooth action, he converts.

33min: The ball changes hands three times in a matter of seconds! Australia win it near their try line but England snatch it back. Eventually they give away another penalty for Flood after being forced offside.

31min: PENALTY! England 6 AUSTRALIA 6

Barnes makes no mistake. It was right under the posts and he was never going to miss that one.

30min: NO TRY! It was worth a look – albeit an agonisingly long one – but Australia have to settle for a scrum. They've won a penalty as a consolation!

29min: Australia could have the ball over the line here. We're waiting for the video decision, but there's so many bodies in the way…

27min: Danny Care snuffs out some trouble brilliantly.

He reads Berrick Barnes' kick beautifully and snatches the ball away from Beale.

24min: PENALTY! ENGLAND 6 Australia 3

Great play as Thomas Waldrom forces Australia to give away a silly penalty.

It's just about in Flood's range and he belts his kick which skims the top of the bar as it sneaks over.

20min: This game is finally getting going. Toby Flood spots a gap and bursts through it. He looks bound to run the final 30 yards and score a try, but Hooper somehow manages to drag him to the turf.

18min: Barnes finds Cummins who looks to smash his way past the England defence on the right.

He stumbles before being stopped and England break. Unfortunately Ashton can't keep the ball in play. If he had, he would have enjoyed attacking the open space on the right.

16min: That kick seems to have woken England up. They've got the ball – finally – and look to batter their way through the Aussie defence.

Manu Tuilagi shows his power on the right, but Australia diffuse the threat in the end as Care gives away a penalty.

13min: DROP-GOAL! England 3 AUSTRALIA 3

Berrick Barnes makes the pressure pay as he kicks for three. They've deserved this. Australia have attacked with ambition and flair and deprived England of any significant possession.

12min: Australia continue on the front foot as Michael Hooper bursts down the right. He finds Cummins who is brought down.

11min: England haven't built on that strong start, but they are getting away with it so far.

Gotcha: Toby Flood of England tackles Adam Ashley-Coope

Gotcha: Toby Flood of England tackles Adam Ashley-Coope

The Australians are tricky customers, but they are seriously lacking in power in the pack. They've held their own in the first 10 minutes, but England are so strong.

8min: England fighting to prevent a try now. Australia have done well to keep the ball, but they can't get past.

They're forced infield after some good defending. Ultimately, England hold out, but we've got a scrum just under the posts…

England come away with the ball. They weathered that barrage well.

6min: A nice sequence of play from the Aussies. They've got some real flair in this team with the likes of Beale trying to make their way through a resolute England defence.

5min: We've been deprived by our first battle in the scrum! The England pack push too early and Australia are given a penalty before play resumes.

3min: PENALTY! ENGLAND 3 Australia 0

Danny Care kicks a wonderful ball up field. Charlie Sharples battles well to win the penalty and Flood converts from way, way out left.

Excellent start!

1min: England are playing in their new kit too. A strange sight to see them at Twickenham dressed not in white, but in Burgundy!


14.29: The players are on the pitch and it's time for the anthems. With Australia's done, the whole ground seem to belt out God Saved The Queen before referee Romain Poite prepares to get the game under way.

14.25: The only change from last week's team is the returning Chris Ashton.

It'll be a boost to have him back on the wing. The 25-year-old's a class act and has scored 15 tries in his 26 Tests for England.

Returning from a one-match ban, he wants to take out some frustration on the Aussies.

He told the BBC: 'There's a lot of frustration, but there is nothing I can do. I'm playing exactly the same way as I always have. Every game is tough.

'I'm always disappointed if I haven't scored two or three a game, but it's not going to happen. I will take one.'

14.18: The atmosphere in Twickenham is sure to be fantastic. The beers are flowing and the stands are filling up as we're just over ten minutes until the ball is kicked.

As expected, it's a sellout again. Mind you, it always is when these two teams go head to head.

14.15: I'm also keeping an eye on the Australian beast Sitaleki Timani. He's 6ft 8in and weighs a mere 19stone at lock.

He'll be nice and easy to deal with then.

14.10: I'm particularly excited to see how Australia's wrecking ball Digby Ioane fares against England.

He was quoted last week saying he was looking forward to facing England's 'pretty' wingers. I'm not sure how that's relevant to this match, but I'm sure the likes of Chris Ashton will want to prove to him he's more than just a pretty face.

14.06: Australia were dominated in the pack when they were thumped in Paris, and England will hope to continue that trend at Twickenham today.

Chris Robshaw is expecting a backlash though.

Plotting: Stuart Lancaster is hoping to build on the victory over Fiji last week

Plotting: Stuart Lancaster is hoping to build on the victory over Fiji last week

He said: 'I'm sure they would have had a bit of a backlash in training after their defeat last week and they'll be wanting to come here and put in a big 20 minutes to start off.

'They can play from anywhere, so we have to be expect the unexpected.'

14.03: This truly is one of the game's great rivalries, and there's been a rich history of cracking matches.

Not that too much should be read into it, but England beat the Aussies 35-18 when the teams last faced in 2010.

14.00: Good afternoon ladies and gents. We've got an exciting Test to talk you through today as Australia hope to topple England on their own turf.

Stuart Lancaster's side should face a tougher test here at Twickenham today.

While England will be hoping to build on their crushing victory over Fiji, Australia are hoping to bounce back after being hammered 33-6 by France.

Back in action: Ashton returns from suspension for England

Back in action: Ashton returns from suspension for England

England rugby players pose for Canterbury and Movember

Twickenham time machine! Can you recognise the England rugby stars behind the vintage gear and fake moustaches



16:58 GMT, 15 November 2012

Movember has been taking the world of rugby by storm once again this month – but nobody expected it to come to this.

England stars David Wilson, Brad Barritt, Joe Marler and Thomas Waldrom, James Haskell, Ben Youngs and Geoff Parling have been showing the new 1871 collection by Canterbury – and worn accompanying moustaches to boot. (Well, all except Marler that is!)

The name for the limited edition collection derives from the year that the RFU was inaugurated. It draws upon the history of the England kit and features a version of the famous red rose emblem inspired by the very first England shirts back in 1871.

Hats off: England rugby stars wearing the new '1871' collection from Canterbury

Hats off: England rugby stars wearing the new '1871' collection from Canterbury (Top row left to right: David Wilson, Brad Barritt, Joe Marler and Thomas Waldrom. Bottom row: James Haskell, Ben Youngs, Geoff Parling)

On Thursday Stuart Lancaster named his side for the Saturday's Test match against Australia and Chris Ashton's inclusion on the right wing, with Charlie Sharples switching to the left in place of Ugo Monye, is the only change to the side that beat Fiji 54-12 last week

The Saracens wing missed England's opening QBE autumn Test through suspension – but he returns to face the Wallabies, against whom he has scored three tries in three Tests.

Style icon: Second row Geoff Parling poses in the Canterbury gear

Style icon: Second row Geoff Parling poses in the Canterbury gear

Ashton scored his first Test try in England's 21-20 victory in Sydney on the 2010 summer tour and he touched down twice in a record 35-18 win at Twickenham the following autumn.

The second of those efforts, finished by Ashton after England launched a counter-attack from behind their own line, has gone down in the annals as one of the great Twickenham tries.

Ashton is England's most potent attacking threat and he will consider a game against the injury-hit Wallabies as the perfect opportunity to break his international try duck for 2012.

High ball: England winger Chris Ashton shields an aerial delivery in training

High ball: England winger Chris Ashton shields an aerial delivery in training

Lancaster said: 'We were pleased with lots of aspects of our performance last week, but we know we need to improve this week and, by having some consistency in selection, we allow those players to demonstrate we can step up to the next level against what will be a very tough Australian side.'

Lancaster will be interested to see how Alex Goode fares at full-back against the Wallabies after an impressive showing against Fiji.

'He's a great footballer and he provides us with extra organisation in our backline. He's a great communicator with the backs and he has the ability to move defenders around and make breaks himself,' Lancaster said. 'It's a step up for him but he's playing well at the moment.'

Goode to talk: Full back Alex (left) gets ready for the Wallabies with a chat with Danny Care and Chris Ashton (right)

Goode to talk: Full back Alex (left) gets ready for the Wallabies with a chat with Danny Care and Chris Ashton (right)

Lancaster plans to keep faith with the back row from the Fiji match so Tom Wood will begin on the replacements' bench.

'The back row played well at the weekend. Tom Wood was good when he came off the bench but we want to give them another shot this week,' he explained.

On the potential for an Australia backlash after their Paris defeat, Lancaster added: 'We will need to step up and our training this week has reflected that. The Aussies will have done a lot of work on their own performance this week after losing against the French.

'But the game before that they pushed the All Blacks to 18-18 and they are a very experienced side who have played some very good rugby over the last six months.'

Chris Ashton back for England against Australia

Ashton the only change as winger returns for England against Australia



10:20 GMT, 15 November 2012

Chris Ashton will return to the international stage against Australia on Saturday after his one-match ban which ruled him out of England's opening autumn Test against Fiji.

The recall of the explosive Saracens wing is the only change in an England team who are looking to continue winning ways after defeating Fiji last Saturday, 54-12.

As reported by Sportsmail this morning, Ashton takes over in his normal position of right wing while Gloucester's Charlie Sharples, who scored two tries against Fiji, moves to the left flank in place of Ugo Monye.

Welcome back: Chris Ashton is named in the England XV to face the Aussies at Twickenham

Welcome back: Chris Ashton is named in the England XV to face the Aussies at Twickenham

England team v Australia

Goode (Saracens); Ashton (Saracens),
Tuilagi (Leicester), Barritt (Saracens), Sharples (Gloucester); Flood
(Leicester), Care (Harlequins); Marler (Harlequins), Tom Youngs
(Leicester), Cole (Leicester), Palmer (Wasps), Parling (Wasps), Johnson
(Exeter), Robshaw (Harlequins, capt), Waldrom (Leicester)

Subs: Paice
(London Irish), Wilson (Bath), Vunipola (Saracens), Launchbury (Wasps),
Wood (Northampton), Ben Youngs (Leicester), Farrell (Saracens), Brown

Ashton missed the Fiji match because of a ban imposed after he collected three yellow cards for dangerous play since the start of the season in Premiership games for Saracens.

The third came last month in his first return to Northampton, his former club, since he left for Saracens last summer.

His poor disciplinary record has brought a rebuke from head coach Stuart Lancaster this week that he must improve his tackling technique.

Lancaster stressed in announcing his team on Thursday that his coaching team had thought long and hard before deciding on making just one change.

He explained: 'To select 23 from a squad of 30 plus who have trained so well, with such intensity and focus, was difficult but it's a good position to be in.

'The 'team first' mentality of all our squad has impressed us greatly. We were pleased with lots of aspects of our performance last week.

On the move: Charlie Sharples switches to the left after scoring two tries against Fiji

On the move: Charlie Sharples switches to the left after scoring two tries against Fiji

'But we know we need to improve this week and, by having some consistency in selection, we allow those players to demonstrate we can step up to the next level against what will be a very tough Australian side.'

Lancaster hopes the expected capacity crowd of 82,000 will get behind England again.

'The crowd at Twickenham last week were brilliant and we can't wait to get back there and take part in what I am sure will be a very exciting Test match.'addCustomPlayer('heicdtovt78m17bvybbez1kgu', '', '', 636, 480, 'perfheicdtovt78m17bvybbez1kgu', 'eplayer16');

Joe Launchbury on his England call-up

Grounded Launchbury has no intention of being left on the shelf after England call-up



23:00 GMT, 8 November 2012

Joe Launchbury has revealed how he has gone from a supermarket shelf-stacker to England rugby international in only three years.

The 21-year-old spent five months working in a Horsham shop to fund a student gap year after he failed to gain a professional contract at Harlequins.

But his rugby took off again when he was signed up by ex-Wasps prop Will Green, who was coaching at Worthing in National League Two, and the 6ft 6 lock has never looked back.

He is now set to make his England debut in Saturday’s international as a substitute if required by head coach Stuart Lancaster.

Call-up: Joe Launchbury is in the England squad to face Fiji

Call-up: Joe Launchbury is in the England squad to face Fiji

‘It’s been a crazy few days,’ Launchbury admitted after Lancaster revealed his squad.

‘If someone had told me last Sunday, after finishing the game for Wasps at Saracens, my next game would be for England at Twickenham then I would not have believed them.’

Launchbury was called into the squad on Monday because of injury doubts over Wasps colleague Tom Palmer.

Though Palmer recovered from a calf strain to take up his place, Lancaster has kept Launchbury in the squad after deciding he would be the substitute lock ahead of Saracens’ Mouritz Botha.

‘Stuart has told me to treat it like any other game and not to worry that you are playing in front of 80,000 people.’

Stern test: Launchbury (right) attempts to grapple with Joe Marler

Stern test: Launchbury (right) attempts to grapple with Joe Marler

Lancaster had earmarked Launchbury for honours last May and took him on England’s tour to South Africa only for a knee injury to force the player to be sent home.

‘I was not the easiest person to live with last summer,’ Launchbury explained. ‘It was very disappointing not to get a game on the tour.’

As for the shelf-stacking, Launchbury confided the humble job had given him a good insight into every-day life.

‘I now know what can happen if rugby does not work out. For me to have this here (the England squad) is fantastic and I don’t want to go back to stacking shelves.

‘I did it for three or four months while I was on a gap year. It was to earn some money before I went travelling but the rugby started up and I never went off.’

Green signed up Launchbury, who was then 18, to play for Worthing and was so impressed that he quickly recommended the versatile forward to his old club of Wasps who gave him an opportunity in A league games.

Launchbury had just lost out on a professional contract at Harlequins after playing in the club’s academy while at Christ's Hospital School, Horsham.

‘Looking back it was the right decision (by Quins) because it really drove me and made me really get motivated. I joined Worthing and got back into the swing of things to play rugby.’

England v Fiji: Tom Youngs handed Test debut by Stuart Lancaster

Youngs handed Test debut as hooker named in England team to face Fiji at Twickenham



10:15 GMT, 8 November 2012

Leicester hooker Tom Youngs will complete a remarkable transition from club centre to international hooker when he makes his Test debut for England against Fiji on Saturday.

He is joined in the Twickenham line up by his younger brother Ben, who is the substitute scrum-half, in a 23-man match squad named by England's head coach Stuart Lancaster on Thursday morning.

Mako Vunipola

Tom Youngs

Uncapped: Mako Vunipola (left) and Tom Youngs are in the England squad to face Fiji on Saturday

England team to play Fiji on Saturday

Goode (Saracens); Sharples (Gloucester), Tuilagi (Leicester), Barritt (Saracens), Monye (Harlequins); Flood (Leicester), Care (Harlequins); Marler (Harlequins), T Youngs (Leicester), Cole (Leicester), Palmer (Wasps), Parling (Leicester), Johnson (Exeter), Robshaw (Harlequins), Waldrom (Leicester).

Substitutes: Paice (London Irish), Wilson (Bath), Vunipola (Saracens), Launchbury (Wasps), Wood (Northampton); B Youngs (Leicester), Farrell (Saracens), Brown (Harlequins).

Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand).

Kick off: 2.30pm.

Youngs played twice for England in midweek tour games in South Africa during the summer and gains his chance following injury to No 1 hooker Dylan Hartley plus Bath's Rob Webber and Harlequins Joe Gray.

The Leicester hooker, who started his career as a budding centre, is joined by two other uncapped players in substitute prop Mako Vunipola (Saracens) and lock Joe Launchbury (Wasps).

Overall, the England starting XV, which is exactly as reported by Sportsmail on Tuesday, shows five changes to the side who finished the summer Test series in South Africa.

Two new wings are named in Charlie Sharples (Gloucester) and Ugo Monye (Harlequins). They replace the suspended Chris Ashton (Saracens) and injured Ben Foden (Northampton).

No ordinary Joe: Launchbury only linked up with the squad on Monday as cover for the injured Tom Palmer

No ordinary Joe: Launchbury only linked up with the squad on Monday as cover for the injured Tom Palmer

A third change in the back line sees Brad Barritt (Saracens) at centre alongside Leicester's Manu Tuilagi.

Up front, captain Chris Robshaw, who missed the last Test in South Africa because of injury, returns at flanker for James Haskell.

On the ball: Stuart Lancaster has revealed his squad

On the ball: Stuart Lancaster confirmed his starting XV and eight-man bench

Lancaster said: 'Congratulations to Tom
Youngs. He's made a great transition from centre to hooker in a short
period and deserves his chance, as do Joe Launchbury and Mako Vunipola
who we are pleased to include in the squad.'

England's match against Fiji should be the easiest of four autumn games. Harder tasks follow against the 'Big Three' in Australia, South Africa and New Zealand on successive Saturdays.

Everybody loves Chris: Robshaw returns to captain England after missing the final South Africa Test

Everybody loves Chris: Robshaw returns to captain England after missing the final South Africa Test

Lancaster added: 'This series will be a real marker of where we are as a squad. We are playing back-to-back matches in four weeks against the top teams in the world and are confident we can rise to the challenge. The foundations are in place, now it's time for us to execute and deliver.'

Fiji are expected to name their team later on Thursday and will captained by Llanelli Scarlets prop Deacon Manu. Also in the team should be Leicester three-quarter Vereniki Goneva and Gloucester flanker Akapusi Qera.

Harlequins 28 Gloucester 25 – match report

Harlequins 28 Gloucester 25: Weakened Quins edge out Tigers to top table


19:29 GMT, 3 November 2012



19:29 GMT, 3 November 2012

Harlequins showed their strength in depth as they returned to the top of the Aviva Premiership a few hours after being overtaken by Leicester Tigers.

Full-back Mike Brown, released from the England training squad for the weekend, scored their first try with stand-in players Matt Hopper and Sam Smith also touching down.

Fly-half Nick Evans, back after an ankle injury, provided an instant return on the new three-year contract he signed earlier in the week by kicking 13 points for Quins, who were without England players Chris Robshaw, Danny Care, Ugo Monye and Joe Marler.

Main man: Matt Hopper of Harlequins scores a try

Main man: Matt Hopper of Harlequins scores a try

Evans' opposite number Freddie Burns kept fourth-placed Gloucester in contention with six penalties from six attempts before converting a late try by centre Billy Twelvetrees which salvaged a losing bonus point.

But defeat meant they lost their record as the only Premiership side unbeaten away from home this season.

Evans marked his return by kicking his side ahead with a sixth-minute penalty but Burns cancelled it out four minutes later after the Quins scrum was penalised.

Gloucester had made a lively start but the home side scored the first try.
Evans found touch with a penalty from just inside the Gloucester half and hooker Joe Gray's long throw released Maurie Fa'asavalau off the tail of the lineout.

The flanker was hauled down short of the line but Quins quickly moved the ball out wide, where Evans and right-wing Tom Williams combined to find Brown who squeezed over in the left corner and Evans converted from the touchline.

Burns reduced the arrears to four points with his second penalty four minutes later and then cut the deficit to a single point when the home scrum transgressed again.

Former England captain Mike Tindall showed a neat sidestep behind his own line and clever pass to get Gloucester out of trouble when they come under pressure behind their scrum.

Tindall was also prominent in the next attack which resulted in Burns kicking the visitors 12-10 ahead with his fourth penalty after 34 minutes.

But Harlequins showed just why they are the reigning Premiership champions by responding with two opportunist tries as half-time approached.

Dickson, deputising with Care away on England duty, caught Gloucester off guard with a quickly-taken tap penalty and Williams was there again to supply the final pass and send Hopper, who has replaced the injured George Lowe in recent weeks, over near the right-hand corner flag but this time Evans drifted his conversion kick wide.

Worse was to come for Gloucester as James Simpson-Daniel's pass was intercepted on the halfway line by Smith – Monye's replacement – who showed a clean pair of heels as he raced half the length of the pitch to touch down and leave Evans a straightforward conversion.

Burns landed his fifth penalty in the 45th minute but, a minute later, Gloucester were reduced to 14 men when right-wing Shane Monahan was yellow-carded for a dangerous tackle on the airborne Brown as the full-back fielded a high kick.

Evans missed a 57th-minute penalty for Harlequins but made amends, from 40 metres, three minutes later before Burns landed his sixth in the 62nd minute.

Evans landed his third penalty seven minutes from time.

England No 8 Ben Morgan, who had just returned from seven minutes off the field having treatment to a gashed head, became the second visitor to be sin-binned for illegally disrupting a Quins attack as they pressed for a fourth try.

Harlequins chose scrums over penalty shots three times but offended themselves and 14-man Gloucester launched a counter-attack which produced a last-ditch try for Twelvetrees, converted by Burns, to grab their consolation point.

As England"s injuries mount before Autumn Tests, Stuart Lancaster needs stability: Chris Foy

Six injured and counting, Lancaster needs stability



22:30 GMT, 1 November 2012

It was all going so well. Too well, as
it turns out. This time last week, England head coach Stuart
Lancaster could look ahead to the QBE Internationals with hope, founded
on the fact that most of his leading players were available.

Not any longer. During a damaging
weekend, Dylan Hartley and Courtney Lawes succumbed to knee injuries,
Jonathan Joseph experienced discomfort in his right ankle and Joe
Marler was left with a ‘tight’ hamstring.

To make matters worse, Chris Ashton picked up a citing and has been banned from the autumn opener against Fiji.

Long faces: Courtney Lawes and Dylan Hartley sit out training this week

Long faces: Courtney Lawes and Dylan Hartley sit out training this week

Suddenly, the selection process has
become fraught with difficulty. Lancaster and his assistants surely
would have picked Hartley, Ashton and Lawes in their starting XV and
while Marler should recover in time, England are already without Ben
Foden, Tom Croft and Alex Corbisiero.

While injuries are inevitable, losing
six or seven likely starters is brutal. Lancaster will announce his
line-up to face Fiji next Thursday, so with the cards left at his
disposal, here’s how it might look . . .

Alex Goode at full back, with Ugo
Monye and Charlie Sharples out wide. In midfield, expect Brad Barritt
and Manu Tuilagi to join forces, with Toby Flood at 10 and Danny Care a
fraction ahead of Ben Youngs for the scrum-half place.

Getting the nod: Danny Care is expected to be named as England's scrum-half

Getting the nod: Danny Care is expected to be named as England's scrum-half

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Up front, props Marler and Dan Cole
are set to pack down either side of a debutant hooker, Tom Youngs, while
Geoff Parling and Tom Palmer should continue as the lock combination.

As ever, back row is a competitive
area but if Tom Wood is considered fully fit, he and captain Chris
Robshaw are likely to be the flankers, with Thomas Waldrom in front of
Ben Morgan in the tussle for the No 8 shirt, although that could change.

Remarkably, Lancaster has only once
been able to name an unchanged team. Just four players have been
ever-present in his England sides this year and three of them — Hartley,
Ashton and Foden — won’t be on duty against Fiji. Dan Cole is the last
of the quartet standing.

Every time there has been an injury, Lancaster has referred to it as an ‘opportunity’, a chance to bring in new faces and explore fresh combinations.

But it has reached the stage where stability is required. England need to be settled and cohesive if they are to have any chance of conquering the southern-hemisphere elite.

Brits of all right

A wrong righted: Schalk Brits (centre) in action

A wrong righted: Schalk Brits (centre) in action

South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer has taken a first step towards addressing a major injustice by selecting Saracens hooker Schalk Brits for the Springboks’ European tour. This column hopes that the 31-year-old finally has an opportunity to add to a paltry tally of three Test caps which does nothing to reflect his staggering ability. Brits has been the outstanding player in English rugby for the last three years.

He was the RPA Player of the Year in 2010 and a year later, when Saracens beat Leicester in the Aviva Premiership final to claim their maiden title, his performance was surely one of the greatest ever produced at Twickenham. He continues to excel for his club on a weekly basis and it is high time South Africa see just what they’ve been missing.

Selling tradition can come at a price

Money matters #1: So, the Scottish Rugby Union plan to sell the naming rights to Murrayfield. While the Irish set a precedent, their deal was linked to the rebuilding of the stadium still widely known as Lansdowne Road.

A warning to the SRU here: while this is a way to attract major investment, they must choose their ‘partner’ wisely. If a new name is too long-winded, or the company is unpopular, it won’t be adopted.

This plan represents the stripping away of another layer of tradition, but then tradition doesn’t pay the bills, as New Zealand realised before entering into a landmark shirt-sponsorship deal.

This week, as a sign of how the corporate takeover of the game can go too far, Wallaby fly-half Quade Cooper was fined for various public utterances which irked his employers, with one charge relating to his criticism of an ARU-licensed computer game. That is sinister. As for the stampede to brand everything in sight, how long until players are contractually obliged to sport temporary facial tattoos publicising sponsors’ names and logos

Sounds far-fetched, but give it time…

Costly: Quade Cooper (left) was fined 6,450 for criticising Rugby Challenge on Twitter

Costly: Quade Cooper (left) was fined 6,450 for criticising Rugby Challenge on Twitter

Money matters #2: It’s a good job that the RFU are set for a record autumn windfall of 17.5million from ticket-sales revenue, given how much it costs to hire the All Blacks these days.

As England’s game against New Zealand falls outside the official IRB Test ‘window’, the NZRU are free to negotiate an unprecedented deal for their national team’s appearance at Twickenham — 1.5m.

That represents a rise of almost 50 per cent on the going rate for such an occasion, while Australia are also thought to be into seven-figure territory for their appearance in Cardiff on the same day.

With fees of this nature, don’t be surprised if these tours encroach ever further into the club calendar.

The last word

New role: Chief executive Steve Diamond will take charge of Sale against London Irish

New role: Chief executive Steve Diamond will take charge of Sale against London Irish

It’s been an eventful week at Sale, to put it mildly. There is still confusion, so let’s clarify the situation. First, there were reports on Monday that director of rugby Bryan Redpath had been sacked. The club denied this, only to confirm the next day that he had been offered a lesser role. It had been assumed that ex-All Blacks coach John Mitchell would take charge of the Premiership’s bottom-placed team, but instead chief executive Steve Diamond will do so. Redpath has accepted the new title of ‘head coach’, but in practice he will be responsible for the backs.

Mitchell will act as a consultant, for six months initially, but only after tying up loose ends in South Africa, which may not be a formality. Diamond is not calling himself ‘director of rugby’, but he is undoubtedly the boss again, in terms of the rugby operation.

The players and whole club need firm, positive leadership and it is up to him to provide it, or the consequences will be dire.