England make four changes but no recall for benched Ben Youngs
Eddie Jones has recalled the Courtney Lawes and Manu Tuilagi to his starting England XV to face Wales this Saturday, the inclusion of the fit-again duo being two of four changes made to the team that began the Guinness Six Nations round two win over Italy on February 13.
The head coach had made six alterations to his starting team going into that match in Rome after losing to Scotland and he has now shaken up his selection again for this weekend’s round three game at home against the Welsh at Twickenham.
Lawes missed the opening two matches of the Six Nations due to a concussion sustained when playing for Northampton in the Champions Cup last month while Tuilagi had been sidelined since damaging a hamstring when scoring last November against the Springboks.
Both are now recalled to the team in place of Joe Marchant, who has been excluded altogether, and Nick Isiekwe, who drops to the bench in place of Ollie Chessum. Tom Curry, who had skippered the team in the opening two rounds, has given the captaincy back to Lawes, whose start at blindside will see Maro Itoje switch from flanker to lock.
Elsewhere, Luke Cowan-Dickie and Kyle Sinckler are chosen in the front row in place of Jamie George and Will Stuart. A major surprise, however, was Harry Randall being retained as the starting No9. Veteran Ben Youngs was expected to take the jersey back having been on the bench in Rome where he equalled Jason Leonard’s record of 114 caps in England’s 33-0 win away to Italy.
For the Italy game, Jones benched Elliot Daly, Youngs, Cowan-Dickie, Sinckler and Sam Simmonds after they had started in the round one defeat at Scotland while he also lost the services of the injured Lewis Ludlam.
Jones began this week by assembling 35 players at Pennyhill but ten of those – forwards Alfie Barbeary, Jamie Blamire, Joe Heyes and Joe Launchbury, and backs Orlando Bailey, George Furbank, Louis Lynagh, Marchant, Raffi Quirke and Adam Radwan – were released back to their clubs on Tuesday evening.
That left him with 25 players retained in camp ahead of Thursday’s matchday 23 selection and Chessum and Bevan Rodd are the two players remaining in the squad who didn’t make the cut to face Wales.
“We have prepared very well for this game, the squad have really come together on and off the pitch,” said Jones. “Wales are a good, tough side and Six Nations champions and it will make for an exciting Test match in front of a full Twickenham crowd.
“We have got a talented, young, hungry squad who have trained with real intensity this week. We are ready to go at them and can’t wait to play in front of our supporters again. It will also be a special match with two significant milestones for Ben and Kyle (who is earning his 50th cap), both of who have made outstanding contributions to English rugby so far in their careers. We congratulate them and we know there is more to come ahead for them.”
ENGLAND (vs Wales, Saturday)
15. Freddie Steward (Leicester Tigers, 7 caps)
14. Max Malins (Saracens, 12 caps)
13. Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs, 45 caps) (VC)
12. Manu Tuilagi (Sale Sharks, 46 caps)
11. Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs, 36 caps)
10. Marcus Smith (Harlequins, 7 caps)
9. Harry Randall (Bristol Bears, 3 caps)
1. Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers, 33 caps) (VC)
2. Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, 33 caps) (VC)
3. Kyle Sinckler (Bristol Bears, 49 caps)
4. Charlie Ewels (Bath Rugby, 28 caps)
5. Maro Itoje (Saracens, 53 caps)
6. Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, 90 caps) (C)
7. Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, 38 caps) (VC)
8. Alex Dombrandt (Harlequins, 6 caps)
16. Jamie George (Saracens, 63 caps)
17. Joe Marler (Harlequins, 76 caps)
18. Will Stuart (Bath Rugby, 17 caps)
19. Nick Isiekwe (Saracens, 5 caps)
20. Sam Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs, 11 caps)
21. Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 114 caps)
22. George Ford (Leicester Tigers, 79 caps)
23. Elliot Daly (Saracens, 54 caps)
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