England’s George Ford returns at outhalf for New Zealand semi-final clash
Eddie Jones has opted to bring Forde back in with Owen Farrell moving to centre
Owen Farrell with teammates George Ford and Elliot Daly during an England training session ahead of the Rugby World Cup semi-final against New Zealand. Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images
Kick-off: 9am Irish time, Saturday. Venue: International Stadium, Yokohama. How to follow: The Irish Times liveblog will begin at 8.30am. On TV: Live on Eir Sport, RTÉ2 and ITV.
Eddie Jones has recalled George Ford for England’s World Cup semi-final against New Zealand on Saturday while Jonny May has been passed fit to take his place on the left wing.
Ford returns to the side after he was dropped for the quarter-final against Australia, with the captain Owen Farrell moving back to inside-centre. Henry Slade drops to the bench. May continues on the left wing after recovering from a hamstring injury but there is no place in the matchday 23 for Jack Nowell, who has also been struggling with a hamstring injury.
Jones has also named an unchanged pack, opting against recalling George Kruis and sticking with Courtney Lawes in the second row. Kruis had emerged as a contender to start due to his lineout prowess – that was an area where England badly struggled in the 16-15 defeat by the All Blacks 12 months ago – but the more physical Lawes keeps his place.
Earlier on Thursday, New Zealand made the surprise decision to select Scott Barrett, a lock by trade, at blindside flanker. Barrett adds considerable heft to the All Blacks’ pack, which may explain Jones’s decision to stick by Lawes. Including Kruis, nine of the 23 in England’s squad appeared in the 2017 British & Irish Lions’ drawn series against the All Blacks.
“Preparation has been good this week after a solid win against Australia,” said Jones. “When you get to this stage of the World Cup it is all about focusing on being in the moment and getting yourself physically right. The squad has approached the game well with real maturity. It has helped having players here who have been on the Lions tour and played against New Zealand. They have been involved in some of the biggest games in world rugby so this semi-final won’t faze them.”
Elsewhere, England are unchanged with Billy Vunipola winning his 50th cap at No8, alongside Tom Curry and Sam Underhill in the back-row while Mako Vunipola, Jamie George and Kyle Sinckler continue in the front row, Ben Youngs is again at scrum-half with Manu Tuilagi at outside-centre, Anthony Watson on the right win and Elliot Daly at fullback.
Dan Cole, Joe Marler, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Kruis, Willi Heinz and Jonathan Joseph all continue as replacements alongside Slade while Mark Wilson has been preferred as back-row cover to Lewis Ludlam.
“New Zealand is a great team, they have an impressive winning record since the last Rugby World Cup,” added Jones. “Like any good team, you have to take away time and space from them and you have to find areas you can pressure them. We believe we have identified a number of areas where we can do that.”
England: Elliot Daly; Anthony Watson, Manu Tuilagi, Owen Farrell (capt), Jonny May; George Ford, Ben Youngs; Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler; Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes; Tom Curry, Sam Underhill, Billy Vunipola.
Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Joe Marler, Dan Cole, George Kruis, Mark Wilson, Willi Heinz, Henry Slade, Jonathan Joseph