Vunipola & Launchbury set to make England debut

Saracens prop Mako Vunipola and London Wasps lock Joe Launchbury look set to make their England debuts against Fiji after they were retained by coach Stuart Lancaster in a 23-man squad for this weekend.

Launchbury, who only joined the squad on Monday as injury cover for Tom Palmer was preferred by England coach Stuart Lancaster to Saracens second row Mouritz Botha and Harlequins’ George Robson.

Lancaster is due to confirm his starting XV and eight-man bench – teams are being allowed a maximum of eight replacements rather than seven this season as part of a law amendment trial – on Thursday.

After Fiji, England host Australia, South Africa and New Zealand on consecutive weekends at Twickenham.

Lancaster’s men need to at least hold onto the fourth place they currently occupy in the International Rugby Board (IRB) rankings if they are to be seeded for the 2015 World Cup in England and so avoid the likes of New Zealand, the reigning champions, in the pool phase.

England Head Coach Stuart Lancaster said: “We have had a good two days back at Pennyhill Park and the players have been very focused on delivering against Fiji.

“Saturday is a great opportunity for us to put a marker down and deliver a quality performance. It’s great to have young players such as Mako Vunipola and Joe Launchbury get their opportunities in the match-day 23 and we are excited about the potential of the squad.

“Under the agreement with Premiership Rugby we are releasing some players back, including Alex Corbisiero, will play for London Irish and we are looking forward to seeing how he goes.”

England 23-man squad to play Fiji

Backs (10): Brad Barritt (Saracens), Mike Brown (Harlequins), Danny Care (Harlequins), Owen Farrell (Saracens), Toby Flood (Leicester Tigers), Alex Goode (Saracens), Ugo Monye (Harlequins), Charlie Sharples (Gloucester), Manu Tuilagi (Leicester), Ben Youngs (Leicester)

Forwards (13): Dan Cole (Leicester), Tom Johnson (Exeter), Joe Launchbury (Wasps), Joe Marler (Harlequins), Tom Palmer (Wasps), David Paice (London Irish), Geoff Parling (Leicester), Chris Robshaw (Harlequins, capt), Mako Vunipola (Saracens), Thomas Waldrom (Leicester), David Wilson (Bath), Tom Wood (Northampton), Tom Youngs (Leicester)

Players sent back to their clubs :

Anthony Allen (Leicester Tigers) , Mouritz Botha (Saracens) , Freddie Burns (Gloucester Rugby) , Alex Corbisiero (London Irish) , Lee Dickson (Northampton Saints) , Phil Dowson (Northampton Saints) , James Haskell (London Wasps) , Ben Morgan (Gloucester Rugby) , George Robson (Harlequins) , Billy Twelvetrees (Gloucester Rugby)

Dylan Hartley (knee), Courtney Lawes (knee) and Jonathan Joseph (ankle) will also return to camp for continued treatment.

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