Wales and England kick off their 2023 Rugby World Cup preparations with their first warm-up test match tomorrow, starting off the Summer Series.
The old enemies will kick-off at 17:30 in Cardiff’s Principality Stadium, for their first of two back-to-back fixtures. Steve Borthwick and Warren Gatland’s have each named their squads for the clash, with notable international milestones achieved within both camps.
There are eight fresh faces set to make their international debuts this weekend, with the newcomers eager to stamp their mark on the squad list for the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
The action will be broadcast live on Amazon Prime Video, with a 30-day free trial for new subscribers. Here is a run down of all you need to know, ahead of this hotly anticipated contest between Wales and England.
WALES TEAM NEWS
Fullback Leigh Halfpenny is set to win his 100th test match cap for Wales, when he runs out against England this Saturday. A stalwart of the Wales back three for a decade and half, Halfpenny made his test match debut against South Africa, in the 2008 Autumn Internationals. He also became the youngest ever men’s player to reach 50 test match caps, before losing the accolade to George North.
Just as Halfpenny did 15 years ago, there are five young Wales stars in the squad, that are looking to make their test match debuts. Out of Gatland’s five uncapped talents, three will start from the off in the Welsh capital.
Cardiff front-row pillars Keiron Assiratti (tighthead prop) and Corey Domachowski (loosehead prop) make the jump up from Arms Park to the Principality Stadium, with Gloucester centre Max Llewellyn joining them as a third debutant in the starting XV. Prop Henry Thomas and loose forward Taine Plumtree are included amongst the replacements, and are also looking for their test match debuts.
Plumtree has previously obtained international honours with New Zealand U20s, yet the 23-year-old never represented the All Blacks. The New Zealand born star is after his Wales debut, having recently swapped the Auckland Blues for the Scarlets. Also, Jac Morgan will start at openside flanker, and will captain the senior Wales side for the first time in his career.
On Morgan’s captaincy Gatland said to the Wales Rugby website: “We’ve named Jac as captain for this match and it is a great honour for him to be leading his country.
“We’ll be looking at probably having a different captain for each of the matches as we give as many as possible in the squad an opportunity to impress, but also mindful about potential combinations as we get closer to naming the World Cup squad.
On Leigh Halfpenny’s centurion milestone Gatland said: “I’d like to make a special mention for Leigh Halfpenny who will win his 100th cap for Wales on Saturday.
“Reaching this milestone is an incredible achievement and testament to the player and person Leigh is. I know it will be a very special day for him and all his family.
“There are some tickets still available this weekend and we’d encourage as many fans as possible to come down to celebrate Leigh’s achievement with us and see the new players making their Wales debuts.”
WALES STARTING XV
15. Leigh Halfpenny 14. Louis Rees-Zammit 13. George North 12. Max Llewellyn 11. Rio Dyer 10. Sam Costelow 9. Gareth Davies 1. Corey Domachowski 2. Ryan Elias 3. Keiron Assiratti 4. Dafydd Jenkins 5. Will Rowlands 6. Christ Tshiunza 7. Jac Morgan 8. Aaron Wainwright
REPLACEMENTS: 16. Elliot Dee 17. Nicky Smith 18. Henry Thomas 19. Ben Carter 20. Taine Plumtree 21. Tomos Williams 22. Dan Biggar 23. Mason Grady
ENGLAND TEAM NEWS
Steve Borthwick has also looked to the future with his selection, and included three uncapped England talents in the squad to make the trip across the Severn Bridge. A high profile debutant on the starting team-sheet is Northampton Saints loose forward Tom Pearson.
The former London Irish man had a stellar 2022/23 season with the Exiles, and earnt himself the Gallagher Premiership Breakthrough Player of the Year Award, in the run up to his England debut. Fans have long been clambering to see Pearson receive his first test match cap, in what is an exciting addition to Borthwick’s squad.
The England substitutes bench also features two uncapped players, as soon to be Saracens teammates Theo Dan and Tom Willis bolster the squad depth. Dan had a true ‘coming of age’ in the tail end of the 2022/23 season, with a stand-out performance in Sarries title-clinching final, following an early injury to Jamie George. Willis will soon be running out at the Stone X after his move back to England from Bordeaux-Begles was confirmed.
Willis has been tearing up the Top 14, after he was forced to vacate the Premiership following the financial collapse of his former club Wasps. England fans are hoping to see him replicate his brother Jack’s heroics in an England shirt, before he makes his debut with the Men in Black. Harlequins talisman Marcus Smith has been named as fly half for the opening Summer test match, with George Ford included amongst the replacements.
Owen Farrell has not been included in the match-day squad, with captaincy again passed to Ellis Genge. The Bristol Bears prop takes over the armband for the first time since the 2023 Six Nations, with his sole run in charge coming in the record home defeat against France.
Speaking to the England Rugby website, Head Coach Borthwick said; “England versus Wales in Cardiff is always an exciting and keenly contested fixture. I am sure this Saturday will be no different as a tremendous first Test match of the Summer Nations Series.
“We have been impressed with how the whole squad has applied itself both on and off the field over this training camp. We are now looking forward to returning to Test match rugby as we continue our preparations for the Rugby World Cup in France.”
STARTING XV: 15. Freddie Steward, 14. Max Malins, 13. Joe Marchant, 12. Guy Porter, 11. Joe Cokanasiga, 10. Marcus Smith, 9. Danny Care, 1. Ellis Genge (C), 2. Jamie Blamire, 3. Will Stuart, 4. David Ribbans, 5. George Martin, 6. Lewis Ludlam, 7. Tom Pearson, 8. Alex Dombrandt
16. Theo Dan, 17. Bevan Rodd, 18. Kyle Sinckler, 19. Jonny Hill, 20. Tom Willis, 21. Jack van Poortvliet, 22. George Ford, 23. Henry Slade.