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Japan vs England: Marcus Smith to start at No 10 as Steve Borthwick makes four changes for tour opener

England are playing Japan on Saturday ahead of two matches against New Zealand in July; Marcus Smith regains England's No 10 shirt in the absence of Owen Farrell and George Ford; Chandler Cunningham-South given first start in back row; Tom Roebuck set for debut from bench

England's Marcus Smith reacts as he scores a try during the Six Nations rugby union international match between France and England at Groupama Stadium, Lyon, France, Saturday, March 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)
Image: Marcus Smith will start at fly half for England against Japan

Marcus Smith will return to England's starting XV to face Japan on Saturday as Steve Borthwick's side prepare for next month's tour of New Zealand

In the absence of Owen Farrell and George Ford, Smith has been given the opportunity to cement his position as England's fly-half.

The 25-year-old's return is one of four changes to the England team that finished their Six Nations campaign with a narrow defeat to France in March, as Chandler Cunningham-South comes into the side for his first international start.

Immanuel Feyi-Waboso will start from the right wing in Tokyo as he earns just his fourth cap, taking the place of Elliot Daly, who is missing the tour to attend the birth of his first child.

Bevan Rodd starts at loosehead prop in England's front row in the absence of the injured Ellis Genge.

On England's bench, Sale winger Tom Roebuck is set to make his international debut, while Fin Smith provides backup at fly-half.

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England's six uncapped players got their chance to impress head coach Steve Borthwick before they flew out to Japan for the start of their summer tour

"We're looking forward to the challenge of playing Japan at their National Stadium," Borthwick said after naming his side on Tuesday, 48 hours earlier than usual.

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"Conditions in Tokyo mean we'll need to be accurate, keep our discipline, and maintain a level of intensity in our performance from the first whistle to the last.

"We will need to be at our very best against an opponent who will want to play fast."

Several of England's squad will come up against their former coach Eddie Jones who is starting his second spell in charge of Japan.

Captain Jamie George and vice-captains Maro Itoje, Ben Earl, Henry Slade and Joe Marler are just some of the players to have featured heavily under the Australian between 2015 and 2022.

The match will be the first official Test between the two nations to be played in Japan, as England make their way to New Zealand for matches on July 6 and 13, both of which are live on Sky Sports.

England: 15 George Furbank, 14 Immanuel Feyi-Waboso, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Ollie Lawrence, 11 Tommy Freeman, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Alex Mitchell, 1 Bevan Rodd, 2 Jamie George (c), 3 Dan Cole, 4 Maro Itoje, 5 George Martin, 6 Chandler Cunningham-South, 7 Sam Underhill, 8 Ben Earl.

Replacements: 16 Theo Dan, 17 Joe Marler, 18 Will Stuart, 19 Charlie Ewels, 20 Tom Curry, 21 Harry Randall, 22 Fin Smith, 23 Tom Roebuck.

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