Winger Joe Cokanasiga has been dropped from the England squad to face Scotland in the final game of the Six Nations at Twickenham on Saturday a week after his man-of-the-match performance in their thrashing of Italy.
Coach Eddie Jones named his team on Thursday, recalling Jack Nowell to the right wing and moving Manu Tuilagi, who scored two tries in last week’s 57-14 win, to inside centre to accommodate the return of Henry Slade at 13.
There was no reference to an injury for Cokanasiga but Jones will explain his decision in a news conference later on Thursday.
Jones has raised concerns about Cokanasiga’s defensive reliability, though England are unlikely to be seriously tested by Scotland missing three of their first-choice back three players.
In two other changes Ben Moon comes in for Ellis Genge in the front row while flanker Mark Wilson starts in place of Brad Shields. Ben Spencer offers scrumhalf cover off the bench for Dan Robson, who is ruled o ut through illness.
The big talking point, however, was the absence of giant 21-year-old Cokanasiga who, winning his fourth cap, wowed the crowd at Twickenham last week with his athletic running and eye-catching one-hand carrying.
Jones, however, was quick to dampen down the adulation after Clive Woodward compared him to former New Zealand great Jonah Lomu and said he could have the same impact for England as World Cup-winner Jason Robinson.
“That’s ridiculous,” Jones said. “The guy has played two Tests (he has played four) – Lomu almost won a World Cup for New Zealand, changed the way the game’s played. So let’s get serious about it.”
He also said the one-handed carrying that exposed his Fijian heritage was more pleasing to journalists than coaches. Though he said he had the potential to be “one of the best players in the air in the world”, he still had areas to work on.
With or without him, by the time England kick off they will know whether the y are playing for the title – if Ireland have beaten Wales earlier in the day – or just the Calcutta Cup should Wales triumph in Cardiff to secure a Grand Slam.
Scotland have not won at Twickenham since 1983.
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) March 14, 2019
England starting XV (523 caps)
15 Elliot Daly (Wasps, 29 caps)
14 Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs, 32 caps)
13 Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs, 21 caps)
12 Manu Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers, 31 caps)
11 Jonny May (Leicester Tigers, 44 caps)
10 Owen Farrell (Saracens, 69 caps) (captain)
9 Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 84 caps)
1 Ben Moon (Exeter Chiefs, 7 caps)
2 Jamie George (Saracens, 36 caps)
3 Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins, 21 caps)
4 Joe Launchbury (Wasps, 57 caps)
5 George Kruis (Saracens, 31 caps)
6 Mark Wilson (Newcastle Falcons, 12 caps)
7 Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, 9 caps)
8 Billy Vunipola (Saracens, 40 caps)
Finishers (203 caps)
16 Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, 10 caps)
17 Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers, 8 caps)
18 Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers, 84 caps)
19 Brad Shields (Wasps, 7 caps)
20 Nathan Hughes (Wasps, 21 caps)
21 Ben Spencer (Saracens, 2 caps)
22 George Ford (Leicester Tigers, 54 caps)
23 Ben Te’o (Worcester Warriors 17 caps)
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