England to start Tom Wood against South Africa

Eddie Jones determined to ensure his side do not take a backward step at Twickenham

England are poised to restore Northampton's Tom Wood to their backrow against South Africa but have dropped Alex Goode and Semesa Rokoduguni from the squad to face the Springboks. The uncapped Nathan Hughes, Ben Te'o, Kyle Sinckler and Josh Beaumont have made the cut, with at least three set to be on the replacements' bench at Twickenham on Saturday.

The 30-year-old Wood has not played for England since the World Cup but has been prominent in training alongside Chris Robshaw and Billy Vunipola.

Eddie Jones is determined to ensure England do not take a backward step against South Africa, who have not lost to their opponents since 2006. With Maro Itoje and George Kruis out of contention through injury there is also room for extra lineout options, good news for Wood who has yet to feature during Jones's tenure. The last time he, Robshaw and Vunipola started together was in the fateful World Cup pool game against Wales, which England were leading by seven points with 11 minutes left only to lose 28-25.

Wood and Robshaw have done well to rebound from England’s premature exit from the tournament and now find themselves with the opportunity to help England extend their 10-game unbeaten record.


Bristling competitiveness

More surprising are the omissions of Goode and Rokoduguni, in excellent form for Saracens and Bath respectively and desperately unlucky not to be involved. Jones, clearly, has a specific tactical plan and continues to prefer the bristling competitiveness of Mike Brown at fullback.

The fit-again Jonny May and Marland Yarde are set to start on the wings with both Te'o, who has represented Samoa at rugby league, and Elliot Daly lurking in reserve.

Jones, alternatively, could still opt for a 6:2 split and pack his bench with additional forward muscle. In that event, both Beaumont, the captain of Sale and the son of the former England captain Bill, and Hughes, Fiji-born but qualified via residency, could appear in the match-day squad for the first time.

Whatever happens, the mobile Sinckler, who was first introduced to the game at Battersea Ironsides, will definitely win his first cap, while Wasps's Tommy Taylor has also been retained among three hookers in the 25-man squad.

The England management insist neither of the two other hookers, Dylan Hartley and Jamie George, are injury doubts. Under the new eight-year deal with the clubs, they are permitted to retain 25 players in a Test week.

ENGLAND SQUAD V SOUTH AFRICA: Backs – Mike Brown (Harlequins), Jonny May (Gloucester), Marland Yarde (Harlequins), Elliot Daly (Wasps), Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby), Ben Te'o (Worcester), Owen Farrell (Saracens), George Ford (Bath Rugby), Danny Care (Harlequins), Ben Youngs (Leicester). Forwards – Jamie George (Saracens), Dylan Hartley (Northampton), Tommy Taylor (Wasps), Joe Marler (Harlequins), Mako Vunipola (Saracens), Dan Cole (Leicester), Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins), Joe Launchbury (Wasps), Courtney Lawes (Northampton), Dave Attwood (Bath), Nathan Hughes (Wasps), Josh Beaumont (Sale), Chris Robshaw (Harlequins), Tom Wood (Northampton), Billy Vunipola (Saracens).

Guardian Service