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McConnochie handed 3rd chance to make England debut

September 4, 2019

LONDON (AP) — Ruaridh McConnochie will look to make his England debut at the third time of asking after the winger was selected for the team’s final Rugby World Cup warmup game against Italy on Friday.

The sevens specialist was picked for both of the warmups against Wales last month but was withdrawn before each match because of hip and hamstring injuries, respectively.

In what England described as a “mix and match strategy,” coach Eddie Jones has handed starts to a number of key players like No. 8 Billy Vunipola and captain Owen Farrell but also selected some fringe players like centers Piers Francis and Joe Marchant. Marchant isn’t even in England’s World Cup squad, but wins his third cap.

With centers Henry Slade (knee) and Jonathan Joseph (leg) receiving treatment for knocks and Jones not wanting to expose Manu Tuilagi to the risk of injury, Jones has gone with an inexperienced midfield combination.

Slade’s absence means he will enter the World Cup having not played a single minute of rugby since the start of June.

It is the same with winger Jack Nowell, whose ongoing ankle problem has been compounded by an emergency operation last week to have his appendix removed.

England has enjoyed a promising warmup series, encouraging wins against Wales and Ireland at Twickenham only slightly offset by a narrow loss in Cardiff.

The visit of Italy completes the four fixtures and is being played at St. James’ Park, the home ground of Premier League soccer club Newcastle.

Italy made 11 changes from its recent loss to France.

England will set off for a pre-World Cup training camp in Miyazaki, Japan, on Sunday.

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England: Anthony Watson, Ruaridh McConnochie, Joe Marchant, Piers Francis, Jonny May, Owen Farrell (captain), Ben Youngs; Joe Marler, Jamie George, Dan Cole, Joe Launchbury, Courtney Lawes, Tom Curry, Mark Wilson, Billy Vunipola. Reserves: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Ellis Genge, Kyle Sinckler, Charlie Ewels, Matt Kvesic, Willi Heinz, George Ford, Joe Cokanasiga.

Italy: Jayden Hayward, Mattia Bellini, Giulio Bisegni, Tommaso Benvenuti, Edoardo Padovani, Carlo Canna, Callum Braley; Jimmy Tuivaiti, Abraham Steyn, Sebastian Negri, Dean Budd (captain), David Sisi, Simone Ferrari, Oliviero Fabiani, Nicola Quaglio. Reserves: Federico Zani, Andrea Lovotti, Marco Riccioni, Federico Ruzza, Alessandro Zanni, Maxime Mbanda, Guglielmo Palazzani, Tommaso Allan.

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