23 Oct 2014

Fijian in England rugby squad

12:37 pm on 23 October 2014

England rugby coach Stuart Lancaster has dropped Chris Ashton from his squad for the November internationals and handed a first call to Fiji-born wing Semesa Rokoduguni, while Jonathan Joseph gets another chance to secure a berth in the centres.

Danny Cipriani and Freddie Burns have also been left out, as Stephen Myler joined Owen Farrell and George Ford as the three first-fives in the 33-man squad, which is likely to be tweaked after the next weekend's matches.

Bath's Fijian winger Semesa Rokoduguni.

Bath's Fijian winger Semesa Rokoduguni. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Rokoduguni, playing for Bath on sabbatical from the British Army, could be thrown in at the deep end when England play New Zealand on November 8th ahead of matches against South Africa, Samoa and Australia, all at Twickenham.

The absence of injured Manu Tuilagi means that his power might be deemed necessary, with Jonny May, Jack Nowell and Marland Yarde also in the wing mix after Ashton, who has 19 tries from 39 tests, was omitted despite a good start to the season.

Rokoduguni turned professional only two years ago after Bath coach Mike Ford was so impressed when seeing him play for the Army that he signed up the Afghanistan veteran for a trial.

Lancaster says Rokoduguni is an exciting prospect and they've talked about starting him against New Zealand.

It is not only the wings that remain unsettled less than a year from the rugby World Cup as Lancaster is also still wrestling with his midfield options.

Luther Burrell and Billy Twelvetrees, who formed an effective centre partnership in the Six Nations when Tuilagi was again injured, could be reunited against the All Blacks but Joseph has been on fire for Bath and could push for his first cap since June 2013.

His Bath team-mate Kyle Eastmond and the ever-reliable Brad Barritt offer further, though contrasting, centre options.

Northampton flanker Calum Clark, who was banned for 32 weeks in 2012 for breaking the arm of Leicester's Rob Hawkins, gets a chance to kickstart his international career after being named in a strong back row division alongside captain Chris Robshaw, Tom Wood, James Haskell, Ben Morgan and Billy Vunipola.

Robshaw had a slow start to the season after losing the Harlequins captaincy to Joe Marler but has been back towards his best in recent weeks and Lancaster was quick to support him.

Saracens lock George Kruis is the other uncapped player in the squad but will be strictly back up to the established and high-quality second-row pairing of Joe Launchbury and Courtney Lawes.

With injuries depriving Lancaster of several front-row regulars, Kieran Brookes, who won his two caps off the bench in the summer tour of New Zealand, is also included.


Forwards: Joe Marler (Harlequins), Matt Mullan (Wasps), Kieran Brookes (Newcastle Falcons), David Wilson (Bath Rugby), Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints), Rob Webber (Bath Rugby), Dave Attwood (Bath Rugby), George Kruis (Saracens), Joe Launchbury (Wasps), Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints), Calum Clark (Northampton Saints), James Haskell (Wasps), Ben Morgan (Gloucester Rugby), Chris Robshaw (Harlequins, captain), Billy Vunipola (Saracens), Tom Wood (Northampton Saints)

Backs: Danny Care (Harlequins), Lee Dickson (Northampton Saints), Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers), Owen Farrell (Saracens), George Ford (Bath Rugby), Stephen Myler (Northampton Saints), Brad Barritt (Saracens), Luther Burrell (Northampton Saints), Kyle Eastmond (Bath Rugby), Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby), Billy Twelvetrees (Gloucester Rugby), Mike Brown (Harlequins), Alex Goode (Saracens), Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby), Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs), Semesa Rokoduguni (Bath Rugby), Marland Yarde (Harlequins) (Editing by Ossian Shine/Alan Baldwin)