RugbyU: Rokoduguni gets England call as Robshaw retains captaincy

Bath's Fijian-born British Army solider Semesa Rokoduguni was one of three uncapped players included in the England squad named by coach Stuart Lancaster on Wednesday for next month's internationals at Twickenham.

The dashing wing forced his way into a 33-man squad for the Tests against New Zealand, South Africa, Samoa and Australia, starting with the visit of the world champion All Blacks on November 8, after impressing in the Premiership this season.

Rokoduguni, 27, who forced his way in ahead of Chris Ashton, was joined by two more uncapped players in Northampton flanker Calum Clark and Saracens lock George Kruis.

And Lancaster said he would have no qualms about giving Rokoduguni one of the toughtest of all possible Test debuts, against New Zealand.

"We have certainly discussed that," he told Sky Sports. "When you are looking for balance in your backline he comes into the equation. For his collision and his ability to beat players. He's a finisher as well."

Leicester centre Manu Tuilagi was ruled out of all four Tests by club boss Richard Cockerill because of a groin injury.

But while Tuilagi was not included in Wednesday's squad, he was also missing from a list of players not considered due to injury -- suggesting England still have hope of him featuring next month.

"We have included Jonathan Joseph as an injury replacement for Manu," Lancaster said. "Our medics will continue to work closely with Leicester and ensure that Manu is supported in his rehabilitation from his injury."

- England stand by Robshaw -

Fly-half Danny Cipriani, the one-time 'golden boy' of Red Rose rugby was not included by Lancaster for a series of matches which mark the start of 2015 World Cup hosts England's run-in to next year's global showpiece.

Instead, Lancaster stuck with Owen Farrell and George Ford, as well as Northampton's reliable Stephen Myler, as his three options at No 10.

Lancaster defended Cipriani's omission by saying: "If you look at the objective stats, the player with the best skills execution is Stephen Myler and I think he deserves his chance.

"Owen hasn't played as much but his inclusion is merited on what he has done for us in the past."

While there has long been a public debate about England captain Chris Robshaw's worth as a Test back-row, Lancaster -- who gave the captaincy to the Harlequins flanker when he took over in 2012 -- has never lost faith in his skipper.

"Chris continues to lead from the front and with other players now stepping up into captaincy and senior roles at their clubs, we are building a team of leaders who can take England forward," Lancaster said.

He added: "We have four quality sides coming to Twickenham for this internationals series and we are really looking forward to playing at home in front of our passionate supporters as we continue the build up to the World Cup in 12 months' time."

Lancaster also has the option of adding to his squad following this weekend's round of European club matches.


Backs (17)

Back Threes: Mike Brown (Harlequins), Alex Goode (Saracens), Jonny May (Gloucester), Jack Nowell (Exeter), Semesa Rokoduguni (Bath) Marland Yarde (Harlequins)

Centres: Brad Barritt (Saracens), Luther Burrell (Northampton), Kyle Eastmond (Bath), Jonathan Joseph (Bath), Billy Twelvetrees (Gloucester)

Fly-halves: Owen Farrell (Saracens), George Ford (Bath), Stephen Myler (Northampton)

Scrum-halves: Danny Care (Harlequins), Lee Dickson (Northampton), Ben Youngs (Leicester)

Forwards (16)

Back Row: Calum Clark (Northampton), James Haskell (Wasps), Ben Morgan (Gloucester) Chris Robshaw (Harlequins, capt), Billy Vunipola (Saracens), Tom Wood (Northampton)

Locks: Dave Attwood (Bath), George Kruis (Saracens), Joe Launchbury (Wasps), Courtney Lawes (Northampton)

Tight-head props: Kieran Brookes (Newcastle), David Wilson (Bath)

Hookers: Dylan Hartley (Northampton), Rob Webber (Bath Rugby)

Loose-head props: Joe Marler (Harlequins), Matt Mullan (Wasps)

Fixtures (all at Twickenham)

Nov 08: England v New Zealand (1430GMT)

Nov 15: England v South Africa (1430GMT)

Nov 22: England v Samoa (1900GMT)

Nov 29: England v Australia (1430GMT)