England name Manu Tuilagi on bench for Italy game
Coach Stuart Lancaster names unchanged starting XV for trip to Rome
Manu Tuilagi has been named on England’s bench for the Six Nations match away to Italy on Saturday. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images
Tuilagi will make his first appearance for England in a year after recovering from the torn pectoral muscle that kept him out for six months.
The British and Irish Lion has played just 70 minutes for his club Leicester since regaining fitness, but head coach Stuart Lancaster deems him ready for England’s final assault on the title.
Tuilagi can cover centre and wing and has replaced Alex Goode on the bench in the only change to the 23 that defeated champions Wales 29-18 on Sunday.
“It’s great to be able to name an unchanged XV and we have been able to achieve consistency of selection in a very competitive squad this campaign,” Lancaster said.
Tuilagi could have been fast-tracked into the matchday 23 that secured the Triple Crown against Wales at Twickenham, but Lancaster felt he needed another week in camp before being plunged into action.
England head to Rome with the primary objective of defeating Italy, but must also overhaul Ireland’s imposing points superiority in case the Six Nations title is decided by that measure.
France also remain in the hunt for Wales’ crown – they host Joe Schmidt’s men in Paris in the climax to the tournament – but with Ireland 49 ahead of England on points difference, they have established a near-unassailable lead.
Mindful of the explosive impact Tuilagi could have on a tiring Italian defence, Lancaster has called up the destructive 22-year-old to reinforce the final push for the first major piece of silverware of his two-year reign as head coach.
England, who have finished Six Nations runners-up for the last two seasons, need a deluge of tries at the Stadio Olimpico and it is hoped Tuilagi’s power will be influential in the attempted points grab.
“The Wales result was very significant for us but we need to finish the tournament well in Rome,” Lancaster said.
“We have had a tight turnaround and the key this week has been to manage the players’ recovery and get them in the best shape for what will be a tough match against Italy.”
Sergio Parisse returns to captain Italy at a sold-out Stadio Olimpico after missing last weekend’s defeat in Dublin with a thigh injury.
Parisse is one of three changes made by Italy coach Jacques Brunel to his starting XV with respect to the team that played in Dublin.
Alberto De Marchi drops to the bench and is replaced by Zebre’s Matias Aguero at loosehead prop. Treviso prop Lorenzo Cittadini comes in for the injured Martin Castrogiovanni.
Robert Barbieri shifts back to the flanker position having taken Parisse’s role as number eight against Ireland, leaving Paul Derbyshire to drop to the bench.
Also on the bench, Brunel has included uncapped Zebre player George Biagi as cover in the secondrow.
Wales coach Warren Gatland has made six changes from the team beaten by England for their finale against Scotland in Cardiff.
Outhalf Rhys Priestland, hooker Richard Hibbard and prop Adam Jones are all relegated to the bench following the Twickenham defeat last weekend.
Dan Biggar replaces Priestland, with Scarlets forwards Ken Owens and Rhodri Jones preferred to Hibbard and Jones, respectively.
Elsewhere, Liam Williams takes over at fullback from dislocated shoulder victim Leigh Halfpenny, scrumhalf Mike Phillips returns instead of Rhys Webb, who has an ankle injury, and fit-again lock Luke Charteris is in for Jake Ball.
Prop Gethin Jenkins, meanwhile, will set a new Wales cap record on Saturday when he makes his 105th Test match appearance.
It will be Biggar’s first start of the current Six Nations campaign, but his call-up is not a surprise given how poorly Priestland performed against England.
The demotion of Hibbard and Jones was not as widely expected, but Gatland has decided that he needs to freshen things up after Wales saw their title hopes disappear.
Jenkins, though, who was sin-binned for scrummaging offences in each of Wales’ last two Six Nations games, keeps his place and will move ahead of former outhalf Stephen Jones on Wales’ all-time appearance chart.
Charteris’s return from a neck problem will strengthen Wales in the lineout, but Gatland’s only other changes are injury-enforced after Halfpenny and Webb were both hurt in the England game.
Wales have not lost at the Millennium Stadium against Scotland since 2002, and Gatland will demand his players end a disappointing campaign on a positive note.
“Saturday is an opportunity for us to put in a performance we know we can, and finish the Six Nations on a high,” Gatland said.
“We’ve made a number of changes and freshened things up with a just a six-day turnaround between matches.
“Liam and Mike come in, with Leigh and Rhys ruled out, and Dan Biggar gets his opportunity at flyhalf.
“In the front row, Ken Owens and Rhodri Jones get their chance to start after impressing off the bench, and it’s good to have Luke back from injury in the second row.
“Scotland will come looking to play some rugby. They had a morale-boosting win against Italy and were unlucky to lose against France in recent weeks.
“We will be looking for a more accurate execution this week to finish with a win at home in Cardiff.”
With Webb injured and Phillips promoted to the starting XV, Scarlets scrumhalf Rhodri Williams goes on to the bench, where he will be joined by Priestland, Hibbard, Jones, Ball, Paul James, Justin Tipuric and James Hook.
ITALY (v England, Stadio Olimpico Rome, Saturday, 12.30pm Irish time): L McLean (Treviso); A Esposito (Treviso), M Campagnaro (Treviso), G Garcia (Zebre), L Sarto (Zebre); L Orquera (Zebre), T Tebaldi (Ospreys); M Aguero (Zebre), L Ghiraldini (Treviso), L Cittadini (Treviso); Q Geldenhuys (Zebre), M Bortolami (Zebre); J Furno (Biarritz), R Barbieri (Treviso), S Parisse (Stade Francais). Replacements: D Giazzon (Zebre), M Rizzo (Treviso), A De Marchi (Treviso), G Biagi (Zebre), P Derbyshire (Treviso), E Gori (Treviso), T Allan (Perpignan), A Masi (Wasps).
ENGLAND: M Brown (Harlequins); J Nowell (Exeter), L Burrell (Northampton), B Twelvetrees (Gloucester), J May (Gloucester); O Farrell (Saracens), D Care (Harlequins); J Marler (Harlequins), D Hartley (Northampton), D Wilson (Bath); J Launchbury (Wasps), C Lawes (Northampton); T Wood (Northampton), C Robshaw (Harlequins, capt), B Morgan (Gloucester).
Replacements: T Youngs (Leicester), M Vunipola (Saracens), H Thomas (Sale), D Attwood (Bath), T Johnson (Exeter), L Dickson (Northampton), G Ford (Bath), M Tuilagi (Leicester).
WALES (v Scotland, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, 2.45pm): L Williams (Scarlets); A Cuthbert (Cardiff), J Davies (Scarlets), J Roberts (Racing Metro), G North (Northampton); D Biggar (Ospreys), M Phillips (Racing Metro); G Jenkins (Cardiff), K Owens (Scarlets), R Jones (Scarlets); L Charteris (Perpignan), A-W Jones (Ospreys); D Lydiate (Racing Metro), S Warburton (Cardiff, capt), T Faletau (Dragons).
Replacements: R Hibbard (Ospreys), P James (Bath), A Jones (Ospreys), J Ball (Scarlets), J Tipuric (Ospreys), R Williams (Scarlets), R Priestland (Scarlets), J Hook (Perpignan).