Former Leinster centre Ben Te’o makes his first England start
Eddie Jones: ‘The boys are really on song, we have had great competition for places’
Ben Te’o starts for England this Sunday against Italy. Photograph: Reuters
Ben Te’o will make his first England start against Italy on Sunday after the cross-code centre was named in a side that shows four personnel changes from the XV that beat Wales.
Owen Farrell will have the honour of leading the side out at Twickenham on his 50th cap as he stays at inside centre rather than moving to outhalf – George Ford staying at No10 – but Dylan Hartley remains the captain despite a groundswell of support for Jamie George to start.
“We have had a good two-week preparation for Italy and we’re ready to go,” said the head coach Eddie Jones. “We trained very well in the city last week and this week the training has been very impressive. The boys are really on song, we have had great competition for places, and we’ve picked a very strong 23 to play against Italy.
“Selection was tough. Ben Te’o at 13 gives us another way of playing the game and we are excited about seeing him, George Ford and Owen Farrell play together in the midfield.
“Ben Youngs has been outstanding for us at No9, but Danny Care gets the starting jersey this week. For the first half he’ll give us a lot of speed and running at the base of the ruck as well as the scrum. Ben will then come on and finish the game.”
Hartley was replaced in the 46th minute against Wales and outshone by George but Jones has resisted any temptation to change his front-row. It means Mako Vunipola will make his first appearance of the tournament from the bench and Kyle Sinckler’s wait for a first start goes on with Joe Marler and Dan Cole continuing either side of Hartley. Anthony Watson is also set to make his 2017 Six Nations bow as a replacement.
The return of Haskell, who like Te’o has impressed off the bench against France and Wales, is the only change to the pack with Jack Clifford dropping to the bench. It is Haskell’s first start since the Australia tour in June, coming into the seven jersey alongside Maro Itoje and Nathan Hughes.
“Tom Wood has been great for us at No7, and Jack Clifford did well against Wales but James Haskell has the starting role on Sunday,” added Jones. “He has come back to a much better level of fitness and we are sure his explosive actions will help us in the first part of the game.”
Anthony Watson has not made the squad as Elliot Daly stays on the left wing and May replaces Jack Nowell on the right. Mike Brown stays at full-back with Henry Slade joining Nowell as well as Tom Wood on the bench.