England 'mix and match' for Italy clash

Bath's Ruaridh McConnochie is finally set to make his England debut, having missed his nation's recent Rugby World Cup warm-up Tests due to injury. David Rogers/Getty Images

Eddie Jones has named an experimental side for England's final Rugby World Cup warm-up Test, which comes against Italy Friday at St James' Park.

The head coach's "mix and match" selection strategy sees Joe Marchant start at outside centre with Piers Francis at inside centre, while captain Owen Farrell plays at fly-half.

Marchant's inclusion is perhaps the most surprising as the 23-year-old was overlooked for Jones' 31-man World Cup squad.

Ruaridh McConnochie -- who is finally set to make his debut after missing England's recent fixtures through injury -- is named on the right wing, with Anthony Watson at fullback.

Dan Cole joins Jamie George and Joe Marler in the front row, while Joe Launchbury and Courtney Lawes pair at lock. Mark Wilson will start as openside flanker, with Tom Curry and Billy Vunipola rounding out the back row.

"The game for us is another important step to develop our game fitness and game strategy," Jones said in a statement.

"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."

Italy head coach Conor O'Shea said of the warm-up Test: "We're up against one of the strongest teams in the world in a match that represents the next step in our preparation for the Rugby World Cup.

"[The match is] another opportunity to assess the players' form, so that we can understand how we should then proceed when it comes to our opener against Namibia [in Japan]. But now our focus is solely on England."

England begin their World Cup campaign on Sept. 22 against Tonga, the same day that Italy face Namibia.

England starting XV:

15. Anthony Watson, 14. Ruaridh McConnochie, 13. Joe Marchant, 12. Piers Francis, 11. Jonny May, 10. Owen Farrell (C), 9. Ben Youngs; 1. Joe Marler, 2. Jamie George, 3. Dan Cole, 4. Joe Launchbury, 5. Courtney Lawes, 6. Tom Curry, 7. Mark Wilson, 8. Billy Vunipola.

Replacements: 16. Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17. Ellis Genge, 18. Kyle Sinckler, 19. Charlie Ewels, 20. Matt Kvesic, 21. Willi Heinz, 22. George Ford, 23. Joe Cokanasiga.

Italy starting XV:

15. Jayden Hayward, 14. Mattia Bellini, 13. Giulio Bisegni, 12. Tommaso Benvenuti, 11. Edoardo Padovani, 10. Carlo Canna, 9. Callum Braley; 1. Nicola Quaglio, 2. Oliviero Fabiani, 3. Simone Ferrari, 4. David Sisi, 5. Dean Budd (C), 6. Sebastian Negri, 7. Abraham Steyn, 8. Jimmy Tuivaiti.

Replacements: 16. Federico Zani, 17. Andrea Lovotti, 18. Marco Riccioni, 19. Federico Ruzza, 20. Alessandro Zanni, 21. Maxime Mbanda, 22. Guglielmo Palazzani, 23. Tommaso Allan.