Courtney Lawes named as England captain as Cadeyrn Neville set for Australia debut

Northampton flanker Lawes retains captaincy despite return of Owen Farrell

Courtney Lawes captain England during the Six Nations in the absence of the injured Owen Farrell. Getty Images
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Courtney Lawes will lead England into Saturday’s first Test against Australia after retaining the captaincy despite Owen Farrell’s return at inside centre.

For the first time since 2018, Farrell has been overlooked as skipper with Eddie Jones opting for Lawes after the Northampton flanker impressed in the role while deputising in the autumn and Six Nations.

The Saracens playmaker has made a full recovery from the ankle injuries that have disrupted his season and features in the midfield, lining up between fly-half Marcus Smith and outside centre Joe Marchant.

Joe Cokanasiga provides tackle-busting power on the left wing in his first Test for a year having overcome a series of setbacks, including injury and Covid.

Danny Care completes his stunning international comeback by starting at scrum-half with Harry Randall unable to even win a spot on the bench, where the uncapped Jack van Poortvliet provides cover.

London Irish’s teenage sensation Henry Arundell could make his debut as a replacement at Optus Stadium as his stellar first season as a professional continues its upwards trajectory.

Joining Van Poortvliet among the substitutes is his Leicester teammate Guy Porter, who is the third uncapped player named in the 23.

Charlie Ewels has become the first player to be ruled out of the tour after suffering a knee injury in training on Wednesday and his place is being taken by Bristol’s Sam Jeffries.

Meanwhile, Australia debutant Cadeyrn Neville has been acclaimed as a standard bearer to determined veterans who still have their hearts set on playing at the highest level.

At 33 years and 235 days, Neville becomes the third oldest Wallaby to make his Test bow after being picked in the second row for Saturday’s collision with England in Perth.

Picked in training squads since 2012 by four different Australia coaches without ever winning a cap, he has now been rewarded for an impressive season at the ACT Brumbies in which his set piece expertise and work rate have shone.

A rich sporting career began in rugby league and he also represented his country at rowing in the Youth Olympics before settling in union, with a spell in Japan interrupting his time in Super Rugby.

Tate McDermott kicks the ball as Cadeyrn Neville attempts to charge it down during an Australian Wallabies training session. Getty Images

“Cadeyrn got called into a Wallabies squad at the time when Michael Hooper made his debut, so that tells you something. Hoops has had 118 caps since then,” head coach Dave Rennie said.

“He’s an ex-rower and that’s why he’s got such a massive engine. He played a bit of league at one stage. He’s a big man so you would have noticed him out there.

“He’s had injuries, he’s spent a bit of time overseas and he’s come back for a final dig. He’s a big man and a good athlete.

“He’s a great story for the guys out there who might have thought the dream had passed them. From a perseverance point of view it’s a great story.”

Hooker David Porecki is the second new face in Australia’s starting XV and although younger at 29-years-old, he has also been making waves in the latter stages of his career.

Spells at Saracens and London Irish have left Porecki with a clear understanding of how England like to play.

“You get an insight into their set piece and into their mentality and what their foundations are built on,” Porecki said.

“It is old-school, traditional rugby that they have modernised, but their foundations stay the same.

“It revolves around a strong set piece, kicking game, territory, exactly what we are expecting when we face them on Saturday. They build their game around that.”

Quade Cooper partners Nic White at half-back after James O’Connor was ruled out of contention for the number 10 jersey, but the latter should figure in the second Test in Brisbane.

Updated: June 30, 2022, 7:58 AM