Rokoduguni, Goode set to start against Fiji

Semesa Rokoduguni and Alex Goode are set to start England’s clash with Fiji on Saturday but Tom Wood has been dropped for the second autumn international at Twickenham.

Bath’s Rokoduguni is poised to win only his second cap, after making his debut against New Zealand two years ago, and will line up on the right wing against the nation of his birth at the expense of Marland Yarde.

The 29-year-old, who has served with the British Army in Afghanistan, is among the Aviva Premiership’s form players this season having beaten more defenders, made more clean breaks and gained more metres than any rival.

He is set to be joined in the back three by Goode, the reigning Premiership player of the year who will be making his first start under head coach Eddie Jones in place of Mike Brown.

Brown remains among the 25 retained at the squad’s Surrey training base — the starting XV is named on Thursday morning — but Wood has been omitted despite a solid performance in Saturday’s 37-21 victory over South Africa.

Stepping into the breach at openside will be either Nathan Hughes or Teimana Harrison, who is a surprise inclusion and with only 13 forwards kept by Jones, he is destined to play a role against Fiji.

Hughes was unable to train Tuesday due to a lower leg injury but is expected to be ready for Thursday’s final session of the week.

Number eight Billy Vunipola was due to sit out training until Thursday due to ‘upper body soreness’, but he played a full role on Tuesday and there are no doubts over his fitness.

There is shaping up to be only one change to the pack that started against South Africa with either Hughes or Harrison featuring, while behind the scrum Jonathan Joseph appears to have regained his place at the expense of Elliot Daly.

It is the back three that provides the biggest talking points, however, with Rokoduguni and Goode making long-awaited returns.

Goode’s absence has been one of more the puzzling elements of Jones’ reign given his form for Saracens and the vision he offers at full-back. Apart from a replacement appearance against Italy in February, it has been an unrewarding period for the 28-year-old.

Jones has held misgivings over his speed and defensive technique, but the Fiji match is now the platform for him to reignite his Test career, while Brown — one of the squad’s three vice-captains — comes to terms with being dropped by the Australian head coach for the first time.

Alongside Goode will be a man described by Bath teammate George Ford as “probably the most dangerous player and best finisher I have ever played with”.

Rokoduguni was dropped after a 24-21 defeat by New Zealand in 2014, never to reappear during the stewardship of Stuart Lancaster amid mixed messages when explaining his descent out of favour.

England 25-man squad retained for Saturday’s game against Fiji at Twickenham:

Forwards (13): D Cole (Leicester Tigers), C Ewels (Bath Rugby), J George (Saracens), T Harrison (Northampton Saints), D Hartley (Northampton Saints, capt), N Hughes (Wasps), J Launchbury (Wasps), C Lawes (Northampton Saints), J Marler (Harlequins), C Robshaw (Harlequins), K Sinckler (Harlequins), B Vunipola (Saracens), M Vunipola (Saracens).

Backs (12): M Brown (Harlequins), D Care (Harlequins), E Daly (Wasps), O Farrell (Saracens), G Ford (Bath Rugby), A Goode (Saracens), J Joseph (Bath Rugby), J May (Gloucester Rugby), S Rokoduguni (Bath Rugby), H Slade (Exeter Chiefs), B Te’o (Worcester Warriors), B Youngs (Leicester Tigers).

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