FORMER Old Brodleians junior Zach Mercer will make his long-awaited first senior start for England against Japan in the third Quilter International at Twickenham on Saturday.
The introduction of the Bath No 8 is one of 11 changes to the starting XV, with several more on the bench, following England’s controversial narrow defeat against New Zealand last weekend.
They include a debut for Mercer’s clubmate Joe Cokanasiga on the wing while flanker Ted Hill is a newcomer on the bench.
Former Rishworth School pupil George Ford (Leicester Tigers) will start at fly half and captain England in his 50th match.
England head coach Eddie Jones says he is expecting a bag of magic from opponents Japan in only the second Test match between the countries.
The first was a Rugby World Cup match in 1987 with England beating Japan 60-7 in Sydney, Jones said it was “exciting” to give starts to Mercer and Cokanasiga.
On Mercer he said: “Zach came off the bench against South Africa and did really well.
“We didn’t use him in the 23 against New Zealand but he is a player of great promise.
“He has a lot of natural talent but for him again it’s going to be hard work that is going to count if he is going to be a successful Test player and we think he’s got it in him.”
Mercer, son of former Halifax RLFC player and coach Gary Mercer, used to live at Northowram, Halifax.
He joined Old Brodleians when he was four but moved to Scotland as a 10-year-old when his dad got a job with Glasgow Warriors.
On Ford as captain, Jones said: “It’s a wonderful moment for him and his family. Fifty caps and captaining the side is a great honour and every game he plays for England he gives his absolute best.”
Japan have won 11 of their last 17 matches in Europe, drawing one and losing five. Their last game on the continent saw them draw 23-23 with France last November.
England: 15 Elliot Daly (Wasps, 23 caps), 14 Joe Cokanasiga (Bath Rugby, uncapped), 13 Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs, 28 caps), 12 Alex Lozowski (Saracens, 4 caps), 11 Chris Ashton (Sale Sharks, 41 caps), 10 George Ford (Leicester Tigers, 49 caps) captain, 9 Danny Care (Harlequins, 83 caps), 1 Alec Hepburn (Exeter Chiefs, 4 caps), 2 Jamie George (Saracens, 30 caps), 3 Harry Williams (Exeter Chiefs, 13 caps), 4 Charlie Ewels (Bath Rugby, 8 caps), 5 Maro Itoje (Saracens, 24 caps) vice-captain, 6 Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, 66 caps), 7 Mark Wilson (Newcastle Falcons, 6 caps), 8 Zach Mercer (Bath Rugby, 1 cap). Finishers: 16 Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints, 95 caps), 17 Ben Moon (Exeter Chiefs, 2 caps), 18 Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins, 15 caps), 19 Ted Hill (Worcester Warriors, uncapped), 20 Sam Underhill (Bath Rugby, 7 caps), 21 Richard Wigglesworth (Saracens, 31 caps), 22 Owen Farrell (Saracens, 63 caps), 23 Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs, 15 caps).