England head coach Stuart Lancaster insisted the time has come for evolution not revolution after he named his most inexperienced team yet to face Fiji at Twickenham tomorrow.
England’s starting XV for the first of four QBE autumn internationals includes the debutant Leicester hooker Tom Youngs and features 11 players with 13 caps or fewer.
The Saracens prop Mako Vunipola and Wasps lock Joe Launchbury, both 21, are also primed to make their England debuts off the bench after impressive starts to the Aviva Premiership season.
If they do come on, Lancaster will have capped 16 new players in nine Test matches as he attempts to build an England team for the generation.
Lancaster is determined to emulate New Zealand and end the need for England coaches to constantly rebuild the team at the start of every new World Cup cycle.
But he also maintains that England’s long-term gain does not have to mean short-term pain as they go on to face Australia, South Africa and the All Blacks.
“When I took over in December we needed to bring through a new generation of players because we had a significant number of the World Cup squad who were post-30,” Lancaster said. “Someone said the All Blacks don’t go through that period of renewal, it is a gradual drip-feed of new players – and that is where we should be from now on. I don’t see England in the next eight to 12 years going through the sort of change we have had to go through.
“The Fiji game is the start of a huge four-week journey for us that will test us in every way. It is about putting a marker down at the start of this four-game series. The inexperience is not a concern or a risk because we delivered good performances in the Six Nations and that experience will grow with every game.
“I have based the decisions on the form of the players in the Premiership and in Europe. This is not a youth policy. No-one could argue Joe Launchbury is a development pick – he is the form lock at the moment and he deserves his chance.”
Twickenham will be an 82,000 sell-out for the Fiji game, the best crowd England have ever attracted for a Test against a tier two nation but Lancaster warned that the islanders will be no pushovers.
“It would be great to get off to a good start but you only have to look at their two centres (Leicester’s Vereniki Goneva and Exeter’s Sireli Naqelevuki), they are two of the most dangerous players we have in the Premiership at the moment,” he said.
“Put those together in the centre, we will have our hands full if we play loosely and give them the freedom of Twickenham.
“But we definitely want to get off to a good start because we know what is coming around the corner.”
England team: A Goode (Saracens); C Sharples (Gloucester), M Tuilagi (Leicester), B Barritt (Saracens), U Monye (Harlequins); T Flood (Leicester), D Care (Harlequins); J Marler (Harlequins), T Youngs (Leicester), D Cole (Leicester), T Palmer (Wasps), G Parling (Leicester), T Johnson (Exeter), C Robshaw (Harlequins, capt), T Waldrom (Leicester). Subs: D Paice (London Irish), D Wilson (Bath), M Vunipola (Saracens), J Launchbury (Wasps), T Wood (Northampton), B Youngs (Leicester), O Farrell (Saracens), M Brown (Harlequins).