England debuts for Joe Marler, Tom Johnson

JASON HUMPHRIES
Last updated 21:25 07/06/2012

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Fowards Joe Marler and Tom Johnson will make their England debuts in the first of three tests against South Africa this weekend after head coach Stuart Lancaster announced his side to face the Springboks today.

The 21-year-old loosehead prop Marler and the 29-year-old flanker Johnson will take to the field in Durban on Saturday as two of four changes Lancaster made to the side that beat Ireland 30-9 in the final Six Nations fixture in March.

Uncapped London Irish centre Jonathan Joseph is included as a replacement and is also likely to make his international debut at some point during the test, with Ben Youngs taking over scumhalf duties from Lee Dickson, who drops to the bench.

Marler, who plays his club rugby for English champions Harlequins, replaces Alex Corbisiero while Johnson comes in for the injured Tom Croft, who did not make the trip to South Africa.

One positional change to the side that faced the Irish will see Ben Foden move to left wing from fullback in place of the injured David Strettle, with Mike Brown set to win his seventh test cap in the last line of defence.

"Tom and Joe have had great seasons at their clubs and have worked really hard to get this chance, both are in great form and have really impressed in training," Lancaster said in a statement.

"Equally, Mike Brown has been outstanding for Harlequins. By moving Ben Foden to the wing we retain his strike power and aerial skills and can utilise not only Mike's attacking and defensive assets, we can also call on his left-footed kicking game," he added.

Lancaster said that he was certain the team chosen would be a match for the Springboks, who will be playing their first test under new coach Heyneke Meyer.

"We have made no secret of how tough this series will be but it is an opportunity we do not fear and with the 22 we have selected, including an experienced bench, I am confident that we can perform."

Flyhalf Toby Flood, capped 47 times for England, and hooker Lee Mears, 39 caps, provide England with some experience on the bench.

England: Mike Brown, Chris Ashton, Manu Tuilagi, Brad Barritt, Ben Foden, Owen Farrell, Ben Youngs, Ben Morgan, Chris Robshaw (captain), Tom Johnson, Geoff Parling, Mouritz Botha, Dan Cole, Dylan Hartley, Joe Marler. Reserves: Lee Mears, Paul Doran Jones, Tom Palmer, Phil Dowson, Lee Dickson, Toby Flood, onathan Joseph.

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- Reuters

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