Taine Game . . . Plumtree Will Have Fans Watching Across The World When He Takes On England

Taine Plumtree will have eyes trained on him from both hemispheres when he makes his first start for Wales against England at Twickenham on Saturday.

In the north, Welsh fans will be anxious to see whether Plumtree can fill the gap at No.8 should the highly influential Taulupe Faletau fail to make it for the opening game of the World Cup against Fiji because of a calf injury.

In the southern hemisphere, they will be equally curious about Plumtree as the 23-year-old was raised in New Zealand and spent some years in South Africa, even though he was born in Swansea.

He has “Scarlets” in brackets after his name on the team sheet, but the truth is he is yet to play for them, having only stepped off the plane from New Zealand when the squad were training in Switzerland.

But although his rugby education came in the Super Rugby competition, Plumtree was born during his father John’s four-year stint coaching Swansea RFC in the late 90s.

He was eligible for the All Blacks, Wales, and the Springboks, as his mother was born in South Africa.

He made an impressive debut off the replacements’ bench last weekend and is already viewed as a player with an outstanding chance of making Gatland’s final 33-strong World Cup squad.

“He has been very good, he is a talent and an athlete,” said Wales assistant coach Neil Jenkins.

“He understands the game, and he played pretty well when he went on on Saturday. We will see if he gets another opportunity in the coming weeks, but he is a good asset to the squad as a player and a person.

“He said to most of the guys that he was pretty nervous before coming out in Switzerland and not knowing anyone. He has certainly found his feet and he gets on with the guys.”

Aaron Wainwright wore the No.8 shirt in Wales’ World Cup warm-up opener – last week’s impressive 20-9 victory over England – with Plumtree now to fill that role as Faletau continues his recovery from injury.

Plumtree played only six times for the Blues in Auckland, including two appearances off the bench this season, in three years.

On Saturday he will have his chance to claim a place in the squad for the World Cup, where he will face a head-to-head against Billy Vunipola.

The Lions back row forward is set to make his first appearance for England under coach Steve Borthwick.

Wales have selected a new-look side for the second of back-to-back warm-up fixtures between the two nations, with hooker Dewi Lake set to lead his country for the first time.

Ellis Genge is poised to win his 50th cap for England if he comes on from the bench.

“We are very much looking forward to our return to Twickenham Stadium on Saturday, and the opportunity to play in front of our supporters again,” said Borthwick.

“England versus Wales is always a special fixture, and we are pleased to be playing the visitors again so soon.