Wasps flanker Jack Willis will make his England debut against Georgia in the Autumn Nations Cup on Saturday, the Rugby Football Union has announced. Willis has been picked at openside flanker as reward for an outstanding season at Wasps where his breakdown expertise has identified him as one of the Gallagher Premiership’s most influential players.
The 23-year-old flanker was due to tour South Africa in 2018 but was forced to withdraw because of a knee injury and his development was then hampered by a significant ankle problem.
Powerful Worcester centre Ollie Lawrence wins his second cap after making his debut off the bench in last month’s 34-5 victory over Italy that sealed the third Six Nations title of the Eddie Jones era.
Joe Launchbury’s return to the second row sees Maro Itoje switch to blindside flanker at the expense of Jonny Hill, who is omitted from the 23 altogether. Launchbury forms a new lock partnership with Charlie Ewels.
With three second rows in the starting XV, Jones has opted against picking any engine room cover on the bench. Instead, flankers Ben Earl and Tom Curry are present.
England have tinkered extensively since routing Italy with three changes, one positional, in the back line alone.
Lawrence partners Henry Slade in midfield, forcing Jonathan Joseph to move to the wing, and Elliot Daly returns at full-back at the expense of George Furbank having recovered from a shin problem.
The half-backs of Ben Youngs and Owen Farrell are still present, but the pack shows six changes, one positional, including two new starting props in Ellis Genge and Will Stuart.
A second new cap could be won off the bench with Saracens’ Max Malins, who is loan at Bristol, providing back three cover.
Saturday’s rivals will be meeting for only the third time and the first outside a World Cup with England posting resounding wins in 2003 and 2011.
Georgia have lost all but one of their 31 games against current tier one opponents, their solitary win coming against Japan in 2014. The Brave Blossoms were elevated to the top table in May.
“We’ve had a really good week of training. We know there are a lot of expectations on us and we’ve applied ourselves hard and put a lot of pressure on ourselves in the early part of this week,” Jones said.
“Georgia will be a tough opponent, so we have a team with some real power in midfield.
“We have a good mix of youth and experience across the squad and they are completely focused on putting in an excellent performance on Saturday.
“We’re looking forward to being back at our home at Twickenham, we are humbled by the opportunity and want to give people a reason to smile during such a tough time for the country.”
They will then travel to Llanelli to play Wales at Parc y Scarlets in their last group game on Saturday 28 November (4pm KO) before returning to Twickenham for their final Quilter International, a tournament placing match, on Sunday 6 December (2pm KO).
ENGLAND XV STARTERS
15. Elliot Daly (Saracens, 43 caps)
14. Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby, 51 caps)
13. Ollie Lawrence (Worcester Warriors, 1 cap)
12. Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs, 30 caps)
11. Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby, 57 caps)
10. Owen Farrell (c) (Saracens, 83 caps)
9. Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 100 caps)
1. Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers, 19 caps)
2. Jamie George (Saracens, 50 caps)
3. Will Stuart (Bath Rugby, 4 caps)
4. Charlie Ewels (Bath Rugby, 16 caps)
5. Joe Launchbury (Wasps, 65 caps)
6. Maro Itoje (Saracens, 39 caps)
7. Jack Willis (Wasps, uncapped)
8. Billy Vunipola (Saracens, 52 caps)
16. Tom Dunn, (Bath Rugby, 1 cap)
17. Mako Vunipola (Saracens, 60 caps)
18. Kyle Sinckler (Bristol Bears, 36 caps)
19. Ben Earl (Bristol Bears, 4 caps)
20. Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, 24 caps)
21. Dan Robson (Wasps, 3 caps)
22. Max Malins (Bristol Bears, uncapped)
23. Joe Marchant (Harlequins, 3 caps)
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now