FORMER Thornbury Broncos player Mako Vunipola looks set to make his England debut against Fiji at Twickenham on Saturday after being named amongst the replacements.
Charlie Sharples has been named in the starting lineup and will win his third cap in the first autumn international, but his former Dursley youth team-mate Ben Morgan has been released to play for Gloucester in their LV=Cup game against the Ospreys.
Saracens prop Vunipola, who grew up in Thornbury and attended The Castle School, is one of three uncapped players in the 23-man matchday squad, with Leicester hooker Tom Youngs handed a start and Wasps back row Joe Launchbury named as a replacement.
England head coach Stuart Lancaster has made five changes to the starting lineup from the final Test against South Africa in the summer with Sharples, who missed that tour after undergoing shoulder surgery, replacing the suspended Chris Ashton on the right wing.
Sharples, 23, won his first cap for England in a World Cup warm-up match against Wales last August and, although former boss Martin Johnson did not take him to New Zealand, he was brought back into the squad by Lancaster for the Six Nations this year and made his first start in the 24-22 win in France.
Thomas Waldrom keeps his place at No8 after deposing 23-year-old Morgan at the end of the series in South Africa, but the former Katharine Lady Berkeley’s School pupil is expected to be given a chance at some point in the series with games against Australia, South Africa and world champions New Zealand still to come.
Lancaster said: “Congratulations to Tom Youngs, who has made a great transition from centre to hooker in a short period and deserves his chance, as do Joe Launchbury and Mako Vunipola, who we are pleased to be able to include in the squad.”
“This QBE International series will be a real marker of where we are as a squad. We are playing four back-to-back matches in four weeks against the top teams in the world and we are confident we can rise to the challenge. The foundations are in place, now it’s time for us to execute and deliver.
“Fiji is a good first Test for us and we can’t wait to play back at Twickenham. The atmosphere against Ireland back in March was superb and you can’t underestimate what it means to the players to have 82,000 people and the nation behind them.”
With the starting lineup averaging just 14 caps per man with eight-and-a-half caps per man on the bench, it is one of the most inexperienced England sides in the professional era.
England team to face Fiji: Alex Goode (Saracens); Charlie Sharples (Gloucester), Manu Tuilagi (Leicester), Brad Barritt (Saracens), Ugo Monye (Harlequins); Toby Flood (Leicester), Danny Care (Harlequins); Joe Marler (Harlequins), Tom Youngs (Leicester), Dan Cole (Leicester), Tom Palmer (Wasps), Geoff Parling (Leicester), Tom Johnson (Exeter), Chris Robshaw (Harlequins, capt), Thomas Waldrom (Leicester). Replacements: David Paice (London Irish), David Wilson (Bath), Mako Vunipola (Saracens), Joe Launchbury (Wasps), Tom Wood (Northampton), Ben Youngs (Leicester), Owen Farrell (Saracens), Mike Brown (Harlequins).