Uncapped Martin, 19, on bench for England against Wales


Rugby Union - Six Nations Championship - England Training - The Lensbury Hotel, Teddington, Britain - February 24, 2021 England's Owen Farrell and Dan Robson during training Pool via REUTERS/Glyn Kirk

LONDON (Reuters) - Teenage forward George Martin, who has played only seven senior games for Leicester, is in line for a shock England debut after being named on the bench for Saturday's Six Nations game against Wales in Cardiff.

Martin, 19, can play lock or in the back row and was thrown into the matchday 23 by coach Eddie Jones on Thursday after Courtney Lawes was injured in training on Wednesday.

Martin joined the training squad last week after Jack Willis was ruled out of the rest of the tournament through injury.

There were no surprises in the starting team, despite England's stuttering start to the campaign that has brought defeat by Scotland and a win over Italy.

Jamie George returns at hooker with Mark Wilson replacing Lawes at blindside flanker. Saracens duo Elliot Daly and Billy Vunipola, both struggling for form, retain their places - Daly winning his 50th cap - as does captain Owen Farrell, again starting at centre with George Ford at 10.

England fans have been clamouring for some of Jones's fringe youngsters to be given a chance but until the last few weeks Martin was not widely seen as one of those knocking on the door.

His selection marks the latest step in a meteoric rise for the bearded, 6ft 6ins, 18st 8lbs (1.98m, 118kg) youngster and is all the more surprising for the number of back rowers performing so strongly in the Premiership at the moment -- and for Jones' famed conservatism when it comes to selection.

Martin was a stand-out performer for Leicester’s under-18 side that went two years unbeaten and captained England under-18s.

He was given a taste of the Leicester first team via the low-key Premiership Cup in 2019 but still has only seven senior appearances under his belt, four this season, and is listed as part of the development squad on the club’s website.

Martin was named in England’s 'shadow squad' for the Six Nations but many fans around the country were asking “George who?” when he was promoted to the senior group after Willis suffered his serious knee injury against Italy.

Seemingly Martin's ability to cover lock and back row, just as Lawes can, persuaded Jones he was the ideal man to step into the void.

Wales have won both of their opening games, against Ireland and Scotland, and name their team later on Thursday.

England team to face Wales on Saturday

15. Elliot Daly (Saracens, 49 caps)14. Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby, 48 caps)13. Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs, 36 caps)12. Owen Farrell (Saracens, 90 caps)11. Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby, 63 caps)10. George Ford (Leicester Tigers, 74 caps)9. Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 106 caps)1. Mako Vunipola (Saracens, 64 caps)2. Jamie George (Saracens, 56 caps)3. Kyle Sinckler (Bristol Bears, 41 caps)4. Maro Itoje (Saracens, 45 caps)5. Jonny Hill (Exeter Chiefs, 6 caps)6. Mark Wilson (Newcastle Falcons, 20 caps)7. Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, 30 caps)8. Billy Vunipola (Saracens, 58 caps) Replacements16. Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, 28 caps)17. Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers, 25 caps)18. Will Stuart (Bath Rugby, 10 caps)19. Charlie Ewels (Bath Rugby, 18 caps)20. George Martin (Leicester Tigers, uncapped)21. Ben Earl (Bristol Bears, 10 caps)22. Dan Robson (Wasps, 9 caps)23. Max Malins (Bristol Bears, 5 caps

(Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Ken Ferris)

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