Saints duo start for England against Italy

Courtney Lawes starts for England at St James' Park on Friday night
Courtney Lawes starts for England at St James' Park on Friday night

Courtney Lawes and Piers Francis will start for England against Italy in a World Cup warm-up match in Newcastle on Friday night (kick-off 7.45pm).

But Lewis Ludlam will not be involved for the Red Rose at St James' Park.

A mix and match selection strategy sees Joe Marchant named at outside centre with Francis at inside centre.

Owen Farrell, who captains the team, starts at fly-half, while debutant Ruaridh McConnochie is named on the right wing with Anthony Watson at full-back.

Dan Cole starts alongside Jamie George and Joe Marler in the front row, with Joe Launchbury and Lawes named as the lock pairing.

Mark Wilson will start at openside flanker, with Tom Curry and Billy Vunipola making up the rest of the back row.

And England boss Eddie Jones said: “We are delighted to be playing against Italy, one of our traditional Six Nations rivals and the game for us is another important step to develop our game fitness and game strategy.

"We have gone with a mix and match selection policy to develop our adaptability and the team’s ability to cope with any situation.

“We have had a solid training week in Treviso with hot conditions so we are looking forward to testing ourselves against Italy on Friday night.

"Then we hop on the plane and are ready to go to Japan.”

This is the first England Test match to be played at St James’ Park, which hosted three World Cup fixtures in 2015.

And Jones added: “We are excited to be playing in Newcastle.

"We are playing at an iconic football ground and we know the area is an important one for rugby in the northern part of England.

"We are looking forward to seeing and playing in front of the fans.”

England team to face Italy

15 Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby, 35 caps)

14 Ruaridh McConnochie (Bath Rugby, uncapped)

13 Joe Marchant (Harlequins, 2 caps)

12 Piers Francis (Saints, 7 caps)

11 Jonny May (Leicester Tigers, 46 caps)

10 Owen Farrell (Saracens, 72 caps) C

9 Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 88 caps)

1 Joe Marler (Harlequins, 61 caps)

2 Jamie George (Saracens, 39 caps)

3 Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers, 88 caps)

4 Joe Launchbury (Wasps, 60 caps)

5 Courtney Lawes (Saints, 74 caps)

6 Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, 12 caps)

7 Mark Wilson (Newcastle Falcons/Sale Sharks, 14 caps)

8 Billy Vunipola (Saracens, 44 caps)

Finishers

16 Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, 14 caps)

17 Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers, 11 caps )

18 Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins, 24 caps)

19 Charlie Ewels (Bath Rugby, 11 caps)

20 Matt Kvesic (Exeter Chiefs, 3 caps)

21 Willi Heinz (Gloucester Rugby, 3 caps)

22 George Ford (Leicester Tigers, 58 caps)

23 Joe Cokanasiga (Bath Rugby, 7 caps)