George Ford will start at flyhalf for England against Wales in Llanelli tomorrow, with captain Owen Farrell joining Henry Slade in the centres as Eddie Jones’ team seek to make it three wins out of three in the Autumn Nations Cup.
Ford returned from an Achilles injury to come off the bench in last week’s 18-7 win over Ireland and Jones will be looking for his incisive distribution to fire a backline which looked sharp in the first half at Twickenham but failed to spark in the second.
Jones has stuck with Jonny May, Jonathan Joseph and Elliot Daly as his back three, with the returning Anthony Watson on the bench, as the only personnel change to the starting team is Ford in for injured centre Ollie Lawrence. Jack Willis, who made a try scoring debut in the win over Georgia but then missed out on the Ireland game, is included on the bench, alongside fellow backrower Dan Earl.
Jones has opted for a 6-2 forward/backs split for his replacements, with returning hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie, props Ellis Genge and Will Stuart and lock Jonny Hill named alongside scrumhalf Dan Robson. Wales ended their six-match losing run with a less-than-impressive victory over Georgia last week and though England start strong favourites, Jones sounded a familiar note of caution. “Wales are in a situation they probably relish,” he told reporters yesterday.
“They’ve been written off. They’re playing at the heart and soul of Welsh rugby at the Llanelli ground, so there’s a lot of symbolism for them, and nothing would make their season sweeter than having a win over England. We’re expecting a really tough, brutal sort of game from a very driven team.
“Twelve months ago they were Grand Slam champions and three points away from making a World Cup final. They’ve got the same players. They’re a talented team and we’ll have to be at our best. We’ve had a great week’s training, we’ve just got to tidy up our attitude now to make sure we are 100 percent ready to go at the start and play with an intensity that Wales have never faced before.”
A win or draw – and probably even a narrow defeat on Saturday – would mean England top their group and they would then expect to face France in the competition final at Twickenham on December 6.
15. Elliot Daly (Saracens, 45 caps) 14. Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby, 53 caps) 13. Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs, 32 caps) 12. Owen Farrell (Saracens, 86 caps) 11. Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby, 59 caps) 10. George Ford (Leicester Tigers, 70 caps) 9. Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 102 caps) 1. Mako Vunipola (Saracens, 62 caps) 2. Jamie George (Saracens, 52 caps) 3. Kyle Sinckler (Bristol Bears, 38 caps) 4. Maro Itoje (Saracens, 41 caps) 5. Joe Launchbury (Wasps, 67 caps) 6. Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, 26 caps) 7. Sam Underhill (Bath Rugby, 20 caps) 8. Billy Vunipola (Saracens, 54 caps) Replacements 16. Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, 24 caps) 17. Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers, 21 caps) 18. Will Stuart (Bath Rugby, 6 caps) 19. Jonny Hill (Exeter Chiefs, 2 caps) 20. Ben Earl (Bristol Bears, 6 caps) 21. Jack Willis (Wasps, 1 cap) 22. Dan Robson (Wasps, 5 caps) 23. Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby, 44 caps).
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