Fijian-born soldier called up to England squad
LONDON (AP) — England gave a Fijian-born serving soldier his first call-up and left out big-name backs Chris Ashton and Danny Cipriani from its 33-man squad Wednesday for four November tests against the southern hemisphere’s heavyweights.
Semesa Rokoduguni, an Afghanistan war veteran who lives in military accommodation with his wife and son, was summoned by his adopted country after just two years as a professional with club side Bath.
He previously played rugby for the British Army, which he joined eight years ago after leaving his home village near the Fijian capital Suva.
The 27-year-old Rokoduguni, who has scored four tries in league six matches this season, was picked ahead of Ashton and David Strettle in a competitive wing department that coach Stuart Lancaster said was his toughest selection.
“His collision and ability to beat defenders and carry the ball over the gain line will be important for us,” Lancaster said of Rokoduguni, who follows in the footsteps of Tim Rodber and Josh Lewsey — other former members of the Army who played for England. “He’s a finisher as well.”
Jonny May, Jack Nowell — back after a knee injury — and Marland Yarde were the other wingers named by Lancaster for matches against New Zealand, South Africa, Samoa and Australia on consecutive Saturdays starting Nov. 8.
Chris Robshaw was retained as captain.
It proved to be a brief return to the England set-up for Cipriani, who was recalled for the summer tour to New Zealand after a six-year absence. He lost out to in-form Northampton No. 10 Stephen Myler in the race to be back-up to Owen Farrell and George Ford.
Lock George Kruis joined Rokoduguni in earning a first call-up, while flanker Calum Clark is the other uncapped player selected.
Center Manu Tuilagi was ruled out of contention on Tuesday because of a knee injury, joining props Alex Corbisiero (shoulder), Mako Vunipola (knee) and Dan Cole (neck), lock Geoff Parling (concussion), flanker Tom Croft (knee) and hooker Tom Youngs (shoulder) on the sidelines.
Jonathan Joseph comes in for Tuilagi, one of seven Bath players chosen.
England, which hosts the World Cup next year, lost 3-0 to New Zealand in a test series over the summer.
Forwards: Joe Marler, Matt Mullan, Kieran Brookes, David Wilson, Dylan Hartley, Rob Webber, Dave Attwood, George Kruis, Joe Launchbury, Courtney Lawes, Calum Clark, James Haskell, Ben Morgan, Chris Robshaw (captain), Billy Vunipola, Tom Wood.
Backs: Danny Care, Lee Dickson, Ben Youngs, Owen Farrell, George Ford, Stephen Myler, Brad Barritt, Luther Burrell, Kyle Eastmond, Jonathan Joseph, Billy Twelvetrees, Mike Brown, Alex Goode, Jonny May Jack Nowell, Semesa Rokoduguni, Marland Yarde.