Sam Burgess on bench as England unchanged for World Cup opener against Fiji
Coach Stuart Lancaster keeps faith with the side that beat Ireland in final warm-up
Jonathan Joseph will start in England’s midfield for their opening World Cup game against Fiji on Friday night. Photograph: Henry Browne/Action Images via Reuters/Livepic
Jonathan Joseph and Brad Barritt retain their place in midfield, while Ben Morgan will start ahead of Billy Vunipola at No 8, James Haskell misses out to Tom Wood at blindside flanker, and Geoff Parling keeps out Joe Launchbury at lock.
Lancaster hopes form and injuries will permit him some continuity in his starting line-up, with highly anticipated clashes against Wales and then Australia follow Friday’s Fiji encounter.
Lancaster said: “The squad is massively excited to start the World Cup. Everyone has worked incredibly hard over the last three months and we are ready.
“All the players have put their hand up in training and the internationals we have played this summer and we are blessed to have such a strong squad to select from against a skilful and powerful Fijian side. The support of a nation is behind the team.
“Friday will be a great occasion for the whole squad and for the country. We are in a unique position to be playing in a World Cup on home soil and to have the support of a nation behind the team. That support will be a massive factor and we don’t underestimate its importance.”
Ben Youngs will win his 50th cap and Lancaster added: “I’d like to congratulate Ben on his achievement. To win 50 caps for your country in such a relatively short period of time is testament to Ben’s dedication and commitment.”
ENGLAND (v Fiji, Twickenham, Friday, 8pm): M Brown (Harlequins); A Watson (Bath), J Joseph (Bath), B Barritt (Saracens), J May (Gloucester); G Ford (Bath), B Youngs (Leicester); J Marler (Harlequins), T Youngs (Leicester), D Cole (Leicester), C Lawes (Northampton), G Parling (Exeter), T Wood (Northampton), C Robshaw (Harlequins, capt), B Morgan (Gloucester).
Replacements: R Webber (Bath), M Vunipola (Saracens), K Brookes (Northampton), J Launchbury (Wasps), B Vunipola (Saracens), R Wigglesworth (Saracens), O Farrell (Saracens), S Burgess (Bath).