England v Tonga - Teams and Prediction
ENGLAND REVAMP: After a disappointing Six Nations campaign earlier this year, England head coach Eddie Jones believes he now has a squad that can go on to achieve big things.
Jones has selected a team to face Tonga with one eye looking ahead to the 2023 World Cup in France.
The back division features two exciting prospects in fullback Freddie Steward and wing Adam Radwan.
In the pack, Tom Curry has been chosen instead of Alex Dombrandt at No.8, with Ellis Genge preferred to veteran loose-head prop Joe Marler.
Probably the big surprise was Marcus Smith not being handed the No.10 jersey. However, he is on the bench for Saturday’s encounter.
“Selection is a process and you move from one World Cup to the other,” said Jones. “You have ideas about how you continually renovate the squad and we have been putting those ideas into place.
“There was a time when the previous World Cup team was possibly going to age a little bit and be too old to go to the next World Cup, so post the Lions was the ideal opportunity to do that.
“So, we have done that and we have got a good mix for this [Tonga] game, 13 guys from the previous World Cup and ten new guys.
“We feel like that is a team that can grow and develop and be the World Cup champions and that is our ultimate aim.
“We want to be more aggressive with the ball. That is what we have worked out we need to do, that is where the game is at the moment.
“The speed of the ruck has gone from three seconds to two-point-seven-nine, which is about a ten percent increase in speed, so there are opportunities to be more aggressive with the ball and want to be more aggressive. That is what we are looking for.”
Meanwhile, Tonga have strengthened their side to play England at Twickenham by calling up players from the Premiership and France’s Top 14.
The Pacific islanders were overwhelmed 14-60 by Scotland at Murrayfield last week in the opening match of their tour.
But as that match fell outside World Rugby’s designated end of year window, they were unable to select key players at leading English and French clubs.
No such restrictions apply this week, with the Top 14 especially well represented among Tonga’s forwards in a team announced Thursday.
The front row of Ben Tameifuna (Bordeaux), hooker Paula Ngauamo (Agen) and Siegfrid Fisi’ihoi (Pau) all play their club rugby in France, as do Toulon flank Lopeti Timani and Grenoble lock Tanginoa Halaifonua.
Meanwhile, Sione Vailanu of Premiership side Worcester is at No.8.
Behind the scrum, Stade Francais fullback Telusa Veainu, Toulon scrumhalf Sonatane Takulua, who will captain Tonga this weekend, and Bayonne centre Mailetoa Hingano are all in the starting XV.
Tonga coach Toutai Kefu is not on tour after being stabbed in an attempted burglary at his Brisbane home in August that also left the former Australia international’s wife, son and daughter injured.
Assistant coaches Grant Doorey and John McKee have taken over from the Tonga-born Kefu, a 1999 Rugby World Cup winner with the Wallabies, while the team are in Europe.
Players to Watch
For England: In the backline, Freddie Steward and Adam Radwan are still unknown factors for many on the international stage and they will view this as another opportunity to show their worth. Manu Tuilagi is back and he is a big presence in the midfield for England. Also, keep an eye out for young flyhalf Marcus Smith on the bench. He is an excellent attacking player and someone who could be England’s main playmaker come 2023. In the pack, Maro Itoje is one of the best in the second row and he will be a handful for Tonga.
For Tonga: Up front, prop Ben Tameifuna is an experienced campaigner and he could trouble the English when he runs at them with his big frame. In the back row, Lopeti Timani is a bruiser and he brings a lot of aggression to the physical exchanges. In the backline, captain and scrumhalf Sonatane Takulua can be a livewire around the rucks, while wing Solomone Kata will cause problems if England gives him enough space out wide.
Head to head
@rugby365com: England by 25 points.
England: 15 Freddie Steward, 14 Adam Radwan, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Manu Tuilagi, 11 Jonny May, 10 Owen Farrell (captain), 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Tom Curry, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 Jonny Hill, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Jamie George, 1 Ellis Genge.
Replacements: 16 Jamie Blamire, 17 Joe Marler, 18 Will Stuart, 19 Charlie Ewels, 20 Alex Dombrandt, 21 Alex Mitchell, 22 Marcus Smith, 23 George Furbank.
Tonga: 15 Telusa Veainu, 14 Walter Fifita, 13 Mailetoa Hingano, 12 Afusipa Taumoepeau, 11 Solomone Kata, 10 Kurt Morath, 9 Sonatane Takulua (captain), 8 Sione Vailanu, 7 Mateaki Kafatolu, 6 Lopeti Timani, 5 Tanginoa Halaifonua, 4 Halaleva Fifita, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Paula Ngauamo, 1 Siegfried Fisi’ihoi.
Replacements: 16 Siua Maile, 17 Loni Uhila, 18 Ma’afu Fia, 19 Setofano Funaki, 20 Onehunga Havili, 21 Leon Fukofuka, 22 James Faiva, 23 Viliami Fine.
Date: Saturday. November 6
Venue: Twickenham Stadium, London
Kick-off: 15.15 (15.15 GMT; 04.15 TOT Sunday, November 7)
Expected weather: It will be partly cloudy with a high of 13°C and a low of 9°C.
Referee: Craig Evans (Wales)
Assistant referees: Adam Jones (Wales), Andrea Piardi (Italy)
TMO: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
@rugby365com, @RugbyPass & AFP