Eddie Jones set to select experienced line-up for England’s Six Nations finale against Italy with Henry Slade and Jonathan Joseph in line for centre spots
- Eddie Jones will name an experienced team for their first Test since lockdown
- They will be led by Owen Farrell as the primary playmaker in a new back line
- Seven of the 15 players that started last time out are now unavailable to Jones
Eddie Jones is expected to name an experienced line-up for England’s first Test match since lockdown, led by Owen Farrell as the primary playmaker in a revamped back line.
With George Ford, Manu Tuilagi, Courtney Lawes, Elliot Daly, Joe Marler and Mark Wilson all ruled out due to injury, and George Kruis preparing for a move to Japan, Jones is destined to fill various voids with established men.
Eddie Jones will name an experienced team for England’s first Test match since lockdown
Farrell is set to switch back to the No 10 shirt normally occupied by Ford, leaving two midfield spaces to fill as Tuilagi is recovering from Achilles surgery.
While Worcester rookie Ollie Lawrence has impressed in camp as a powerful carrier, the indications on Wednesday night were that Jones would opt for international pedigree, by pairing Henry Slade and Jonathan Joseph in the centre.
Slade has been in supreme form during Exeter’s glorious campaign which led to an historic double of Premiership and Heineken Champions Cup titles. The 27-year-old has always been a class act with a skilful repertoire but he appears to have acquired an extra layer of authority of late. He has come into camp with considerable personal belief.
Jones has repeatedly emphasised that he does not regard the forthcoming autumn schedule as an opportunity for experimentation.
They will be led by Owen Farrell (left) as the primary playmaker in a revamped back line
Farrell is set to switch back to the No 10 shirt normally occupied by George Ford (pictured)
POSSIBLE ENGLAND XV TO FACE ITALY
Furbank; May, Joseph, Slade, Watson; Farrell (capt), Youngs; M Vunipola, George, Sinckler; Itoje, Ewels; Curry, B Vunipola, Underhill.
Instead, he has insisted that England will go into matches at full strength — or as strong as the casualty list allows — with a view to winning Tests as a means to re-engage with the public.
The cancellation of last Sunday’s non-cap fixture against the Barbarians was a setback in terms of preparation, which in turn has placed an even greater emphasis on experience.
With that in mind, Jonny May and Anthony Watson are likely to start on the wings in Rome, while Jones thinks highly of George Furbank and the Northampton full back could be named at No 15 despite his apparent form slump in recent months.
Earl and other players who have been in fine club form may have to be patient, although there are a number of replacement roles up for grabs.
Although the front and back rows are likely to have a familiar look, there is a slot to fill alongside Maro Itoje at lock. Joe Launchbury is the most experienced contender, but Charlie Ewels has been in camp for longer so the Bath captain has a strong chance to claim that place.
England are, however, missing seven of the 15 players that started for them last time out