Birthday boy Cokanasiga gets England debut as Jones makes 11 changes for Japan

Julian GUYER
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Chris Ashton switches wing to make room for Joe Cokanasiga in the Englnd team to play Japan

Bath powerhouse wing Joe Cokanasiga was handed an England debut on his 21st birthday as coach Eddie Jones made 11 changes to his starting side announced Thursday for this weekend's international against Japan at Twickenham.

Fiji-born flyer Cokanasiga -- his full name is Ratu Josateki Tuivanuavou Waqanivalu Cokanasiga -- takes over on the right wing from Chris Ashton, who shifts across to take over from Jonny May on the left wing.

Cokanisiga, who is 1.95m and 110 kilos, moved to England with his parents when he was just three. He began his rugby career with London Irish before moving to Bath this season.

"He's pretty excited," said Jones of Cokanasiga after unveiling his side at England's training base in Bagshot.

"He's quite a shy boy but there's something a little bit special about him. He's got power and he's got pace."

Leicester's George Ford starts at fly-half and captains the side in his 50th Test, having come off the bench for last week's agonising 16-15 loss to world champions New Zealand.

He will line up alongside Danny Care, with regular starting scrum-half Ben Youngs not even in the matchday 23.

"George as captain at 10 is responsible for organising the team around the field and Danny brings a certain sparkle around the ruck," explained Jones.

England co-captains Owen Farrell and Dylan Hartley are both among the replacements to face 2019 World Cup hosts Japan on Saturday.

Hartley has been replaced by British and Irish Lion Jamie George at hooker, with Farrell giving way to Ford.

Only full-back Elliot Daly starts England's penultimate November international in the same shirt.

Charlie Ewels partners Maro Itoje in the second row, with Courtney Lawes at blindside flanker, while Zach Mercer wins his second cap at No 8, with Mark Wilson switching to openside flanker.

- 'Big kicking' Japan -

"Japan is an important game for us as we want to get back to winning ways," said Jones.

"We have also tested ourselves in having a shorter preparation," he added.

England started their November campaign by seeing off South Africa 12-11 at Twickenham before a one-point loss to the All Blacks.

Jones guided Japan to one of the all-time great rugby upsets when they beat South Africa 34-32 during the 2015 World Cup in England.

"They're a good side, a big kicking team. Our back field is going to get plenty of work."

Meanwhile Japan coach Jamie Joseph named a much-changed side from the one that put up a gutsy showing in a 69-31 defeat by his native New Zealand a fortnight ago.

A new-look backline sees Will Tupou move from outside centre to full-back, replacing Ryohei Yamanaka, with Timothy Lafaele now partnering Ryoko Nakamura in midfield.

Akihito Yamada comes in on the wing, with Fumikai Tanaka replacing Yutaka Nagare at scrum-half.

In a revamped pack, captain Michael Leitch packs down with Kazuki Himeno and Masakatsu Nishikawa in the back row, with Uwe Helu alongside Wimpie van der Walt at lock.

Jiwon Koo starts at tighthead prop.

Saturday's match will be just the second full Test between the two countries, with England having overpowered Japan 60-7 at the inaugural 1987 World Cup.

Teams for the rugby union international between England and Japan at Twickenham on Saturday (1500 GMT kick-off):

England (15-1)

Elliot Daly; Joe Cokanasiga, Jack Nowell, Alex Lozowski, Chris Ashton; George Ford (capt), Danny Care; Zach Mercer, Mark Wilson, Courtney Lawes; Maro Itoje, Charlie Ewels; Harry Williams, Jamie George, Alec Hepburn

Replacements: Dylan Hartley, Ben Moon, Kyle Sinckler, Ted Hill, Sam Underhill, Richard Wigglesworth, Owen Farrell, Henry Slade

Japan (15-1)

Will Tupou, Akihito Yamada, Timothy Lafaele, Ryoto Nakamura; Kenki Fukuoka; Yu Tamura, Fumiaki Tanaka; Kazuki Himeno, Masakatsu Nishikawa, Michael Leitch (capt); Uwe Helu, Wimpie van der Walt; Jiwon Koo, Atsushi Sakate, Keita Inagaki

Replacements: Yusuke Niwai, Koki Yamamoto, Asaeli Ai Valu, Samuela Anise, Hendrik Tui, Shunsuke Nunomaki, Yutaka Nagare, Rikiya Matsuda