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Mitchell to start at scrumhalf for England against Argentina

Alex Mitchell was on Thursday named at scrum-half in a surprise call by coach Steve Borthwick for England’s World Cup Pool D opener against Argentina in Marseille this weekend.

Mitchell, 26, was a late call-up to the England squad after Jack Van Poortvliet was ruled out with injury.

Danny Care is named on the bench, with the vastly experienced Ben Youngs missing out on the match-day 23 altogether.

“Great credit to ‘Mitch’, he was incredibly disappointed not to make the initial 33-man squad,” said Borthwick, highlighting Mitchell’s role in England’s final warm-up match which they lost to Fiji, 30-22, in what was only his sixth international appearance.

“An opportunity opened up and one of the positives that came out of that Fiji game was his (Mitchell’s) performance.

“He played well, he’s trained exceptionally well, he’s done exactly what we’ve asked him: be ready to go.”

Borthwick, labelling Mitchell a “dangerous runner”, added: “At scrum-half we’ve got a lot of strength.

“Each week it’s about ensuring getting the two best scrum-halves to get the job done.”

Courtney Lawes is named captain at blindside flanker and is joined in the backrow by Tom Curry on the openside and Ben Earl at No.8.

In the front row, vice-captain Ellis Genge starts at loosehead prop with Jamie George at hooker and Dan Cole on the tighthead.

Maro Itoje and Ollie Chessum are paired at lock, while Mitchell will team up with George Ford at half-back.

Manu Tuilagi partners Joe Marchant in midfield, with Jonny May and Elliot Daly filling the wingers’ spots and Freddie Steward at fullback.

“With an excellent week of preparation in Le Touquet, the players are now looking forward to starting their Rugby World Cup campaign under the lights in Marseille on Saturday,” said Borthwick.

“After a number of impressive performances in the last 12 months by Argentina, we know that the first game in our pool will provide a stern test.

“This great tournament provides an excitingly special opportunity for our players, who I know, as ever, will be giving their all in front of our travelling support in the south of France.”

Theo Dan, Joe Marler, Will Stuart, George Martin and Lewis Ludlam make up the forward replacements, while Care is joined by Marcus Smith and Ollie Lawrence amid the backs hoping to make an impact should they run out at Stade Velodrome.

England (15-1)

Freddie Steward; Jonny May, Joe Marchant, Manu Tuilagi, Elliot Daly; George Ford, Alex Mitchell; Ben Earl, Tom Curry, Courtney Lawes (capt); Ollie Chessum, Maro Itoje; Dan Cole, Jamie George, Ellis Genge

Replacements: Theo Dan, Joe Marler, Will Stuart, George Martin, Lewis Ludlam, Danny Care, Marcus Smith, Ollie Lawrence

Cheika plumps for experience 

Argentina coach Michael Cheika named an experienced side to play their World Cup Pool D opener against England in Marseille on Saturday.

Agustín Creevy will play his fourth Rugby World Cup having been named on the bench, with fellow hooker Julian Montoya captaining the run-on XV.

When he takes to the field, Creevy will join Mario Ledesma, Felipe Contepomi and Martin Scelzo as the only Argentines to have played in as many World Cup tournaments.

Nine players in the starting team have World Cup experience.

“We prepared as we always do. We are happy because preparation is more important than the game because it is what we can control,” said Cheika who led Australia to the 2015 Rugby World Cup Final and to the quarters four years ago when they were knocked out by England.

Team selection, Cheika said, “was difficult, to choose the starting team, because they are all available”.

“There was a lot of competition between players. Given the game we imagine it will be, we will have six forwards and two backs in the reserves.

“Our team has many young players that give it energy and demand competition from those who have been around for a long time.”

Montoya acknowledged there had been some anxious times in the build-up to this World Cup opener.

“We have been preparing for the game for a long time. Anxiety is there and it would be strange if it wasn’t. We have to be together, focused on the present,” Montoya said.

Argentina have lost all three of their previous World Cup pool matches against England: 39-10 in 2019, 13-9 in 2011 and 24-18 in 1995.

And England have only lost five times to Argentina in 25 matches in total, although Los Pumas ran out 30-29 winners at Twickenham last year in their most recent encounter.

Argentina (15-1)

Juan Cruz Mallia; Emiliano Boffelli, Lucio Cinti, Santiago Chocobares, Mateo Carreras; Santiago Carreras, Gonzalo Bertranou; Juan Martin Gonzalez, Marcos Kremer, Pablo Matera; Tomas Lavanini, Matias Alemanno; Francisco Gomez Kodela, Julian Montoya (capt), Thomas Gallo

Replacements: Agustín Creevy, Joel Sclavi, Eduardo Bello, Guido Petti Pagadizabal, Pedro Rubiolo, Rodrigo Bruni, Lautaro Bazan Velez, Matías Moroni