Fin-tastic reward as England prop given Test start

by Pelican Press
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Fin-tastic reward as England prop given Test start

England coach Steve Borthwick has made one injury-enforced change to his team for the second and final Test of the series against New Zealand at Auckland’s Eden Park.

Prop Fin Baxter made his Test debut in last week’s 16-15 loss in Dunedin as an early injury replacement for Joe Marler, and he has been awarded the No.1 shirt for Saturday’s match, with the experienced loosehead unavailable with the foot issue.

Bevan Rodd comes into the squad to back up Baxter on a bench also featuring tighthead Dan Coles, who is set to win his 115th cap and pass Jason Leonard to become the second most-capped Englishman after Ben Youngs (127).

“Dan has shown nothing but dedication and determination throughout his career, and reaching this milestone is a remarkable feat,” Borthwick said.

“He is a superb rugby player, a wonderful role model, and we all look forward to sharing a memorable day with him on Saturday.”

Ben Earl, Sam Underhill and New Zealand-raised Chandler Cunningham-South will reprise the back-row challenge that proved so effective last week in an otherwise unchanged pack.

Marcus Smith was again given the nod at flyhalf despite missing three shots at goal in Dunedin. Henry Slade, who offers Borthwick alternate kicking option, will be outside him in the centres.

New Zealand boast an unbeaten record at Eden Park that goes back 50 Tests to 1994.

“Eden Park is a stadium packed with history and with memories of great rugby encounters,” said Borthwick said.

“We are delighted to be playing there this Saturday in what I anticipate will be another excellent test encounter.”

England: George Furbank, Immanuel Feyi-Waboso, Henry Slade, Ollie Lawrence, Tommy Freeman, Marcus Smith, Alex Mitchell, Ben Earl, Sam Underhill, Chandler Cunningham-South, George Martin, Maro Itoje, Will Stuart, Jamie George (captain), Fin Baxter.

Reserves: Theo Dan, Bevan Rodd, Dan Cole, Alex Coles, Tom Curry, Ben Spencer, Fin Smith, Ollie Sleightholme.

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