Courtney Lawes to captain England on 100th cap vs Fiji as Steve Borthwick makes nine changes

Courtney Lawes to captain England on 100th cap vs Fiji as Steve Borthwick makes nine changes

Courtney Lawes will skipper England on his 100th cap as Manu Tuilagi and Ollie Lawrence form a blockbuster midfield combination for Saturday’s final Rugby World Cup warm-up clash against Fiji.

Powerhouse Northampton forward Lawes will be the front-runner to captain England in their first two World Cup matches, with squad skipper Owen Farrell suspended.

Now the 34-year-old will lead England out at Twickenham on Saturday, with Farrell missing through that ban for a high tackle on Wales’ Taine Basham.

Lawes has proved his fitness after a rut of absences last season, and will be a crucial cog in Steve Borthwick’s World Cup starting XV, most likely at blindside flanker.

The versatile forward’s lineout dominance in Saturday’s 29-10 defeat by Ireland in Dublin proved one of the few highlights of England’s five-try loss at the Aviva Stadium.

Lawes’ longevity can be underscored no more clearly than a look back to his Test debut, off the bench in the 18-9 Twickenham defeat by Australia. The Northampton academy product rubbed shoulders that day with 2003 World Cup winners Jonny Wilkinson and Steve Thompson – and even current England boss Borthwick.

“We couldn’t be prouder of Courtney on achieving his incredible milestone after 14 years of excellent performances for his country,” said England boss Borthwick. “It has been a privilege to watch his journey and witness him develop into a truly outstanding rugby player.

“Not only is Courtney an exceptional talent and an excellent professional, he is also a brilliant role model for young players every time he steps onto the field.”

England desperately need to win and score some fluent, attacking tries, to head off to France for the World Cup with renewed momentum and spirit.

Head coach Steve Borthwick has made nine changes from the side that leaked five tries to Ireland in Dublin last weekend.

Gloucester wing Jonny May – omitted from the World Cup 33-man squad – starts on the wing as England look to minimise injuries and disruption with Farrell and Billy Vunipola both suspended.

George Ford gets the nod at fly-half (Getty Images)
George Ford gets the nod at fly-half (Getty Images)

Both Farrell and Vunipola will miss the World Cup opener against Argentina in Marseille on Saturday, September 9, and this is the last match opportunity for England to experiment.

Ben Earl starts at No8 in Vunipola’s absence, while George Ford again gets the nod at fly-half, with Marcus Smith on the bench. England have been looking at Smith as a back-up option at full-back, where the Harlequins playmaker could act as a second-receiver in phase play.

Alex Mitchell starts at scrum-half, with the Northampton flanker having replaced the injured Jack van Poortvliet in the World Cup squad.

Ollie Chessum makes his first start after a dislocated ankle, having come off the bench in Dublin last weekend, while hooker Theo Dan gets the nod in the front-row.

England team to face Fiji: F Steward; M Malins, O Lawrence, M Tuilagi, J May, G Ford; A Mitchell; E Genge, T Dan, D Cole; M Itoje, O Chessum; C Lawes (capt), J Willis, B Earl. Replacements: J Walker, J Marler, W Stuart, D Ribbans, L Ludlam, D Care, M Smith, J Marchant.