England play joker by picking two hookers on bench against Wales

Jamie George and Jack Singleton will be among the replacements in Cardiff.

By Press Association Published: 15 August 2019 - 9.00pm


Rugby Union


England have played a joker by picking two hookers on the bench against Wales as attack coach Scott Wisemantel compared the World Cup warm-up Tests to a game of poker.

The second instalment of a doubleheader against the Grand Slam champions unfolds in Cardiff on Saturday with Eddie Jones’ men drawing first blood at Twickenham last weekend in the form of a 33-19 victory.

Twenty-four hours earlier on the other side of the equator, Australia sent shockwaves through the global game by overwhelming New Zealand 47-26.

England have made three changes to an experimental side, as well as choosing both Jamie George and Jack Singleton on the bench, while Wales have picked many of their established stars.

Wisemantel refuses to read too much into what happens during the build-up to Japan 2019 knowing it is part of the phony war.

“We watched the Wallabies game but we’re not worried about them. All the teams at the moment are taking bits and pieces out of their games,” the Australian said.

“It seems that teams are just holding something back. It’s like a poker game at the moment.

“Everyone’s sitting around, playing a few cards and some nice hands every now and then, but I don’t think everyone is showing their full hand.”

England’s unexpected selection of George and Singleton as back-up to starting hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie has been forced by injuries to flankers Mark Wilson, Sam Underhill and Tom Curry.

Singleton won his first cap against Wales on Sunday and a player described as a “utility forward” by assistant coach Steve Borthwick is poised to claim the second as a back-row replacement in Cardiff.

“This is actually great for us – it’s the type of thing that could happen to us at the World Cup. Players have to adapt,” forwards boss Borthwick said.

England forwards coach Steve Borthwick has described Jack Singleton as a
England forwards coach Steve Borthwick has described Jack Singleton as a utility forward (John Walton/PA)

“We’ve got three very good hookers and Jack is there to operate as a utility forward. It’s a great opportunity for him and for us to learn to adapt.

“Jack hasn’t played there an awful lot at the top level but as a youngster he has. He’s a very talented rugby player. He runs great support lines, he understands the game in the loose. He’s fit and he’s quick.

“While we want to play well and win, we are working towards the World Cup. That’s where we want to be at our best.

“Every team in the world right now is trying different things. You can see that.”

England enter their clash in the Welsh capital knowing that a victory by 16 points could lift them to the summit of the world rankings.

Curry (shoulder), Wilson (ribs) and Underhill (toe) are involved in training and should play some part in the remaining two warm-up games against Ireland and Italy.

Centre Henry Slade, however, might miss all four Tests because of his knee injury and has tentatively been penciled in to face Italy on September 6 – the same date it is hoped his Exeter colleague Jack Nowell will return from an ankle problem.

World Cup bolter Ruaridh McConnochie will make his England debut on Saturday a week later than hoped for after overcoming a hip problem.

The Bath wing and sevens specialist was picked in the team to face Warren Gatland’s men at Twickenham last weekend but was among a trio of late withdrawals due to injury.