Jamie George returns to England lineup for Wales clash
Mark Wilson also drafted in while George North will win his 100th cap for Wales
England’s Jamie George will start the Six Nations clash against Wales. Photo: Glyn Kirk/PA Wire
Six Nations: Wales v England
Kick-off: 4.45pm, Saturday. Venue: Principality Stadium, Cardiff. How to follow: The Irish Times liveblog will begin at 4.15pm. On TV: Live on Virgin Media One and BBC.
England have suffered a major setback ahead of Saturday’s Guinness Six Nations clash with Wales after Courtney Lawes was ruled out by a chest injury sustained in training.
Lawes was poised to continue at blindside flanker for the Cardiff showdown only to damage his pectoral muscle during Wednesday afternoon’s customary full-blooded training session.
The Northampton forward’s place in the back row goes to Mark Wilson, who fills the vacancy in the number six jersey after being dropped for the round-two victory over Italy.
The only other change to the XV that routed the Azzurri at Twickenham is Jamie George returning at hooker in place of Luke Cowan-Dickie.
There are two changes on the bench in the form of Cowan-Dickie’s demotion from the starting lineup and the promotion of Leicester rookie George Martin, who is set to win his first cap.
Martin comes in for Jack Willis who will miss the rest of the season after suffering extensive knee damage against Italy.
Full-back Elliot Daly will get the chance to play his way out of his recent slump in form after given his 50th cap for the showdown at the Principality Stadium, the stage for his brilliant try in 2017.
And Daly’s Saracens team-mates Billy Vunipola and Owen Farrell, who are also out of form, continue in the starting XV, with the latter part of an unchanged backline.
“Wales is a really special fixture and rivalry. There is a long history between the two nations and the game means a lot to both countries,” head coach Eddie Jones said.
“We know we’ll be up against a strong Welsh challenge on Saturday, but we’ve worked really hard in training this week and have got a very good team to face it.
“We want to show people what we are capable of, keep building our performances and the best is yet to come from this England team.”
For Wales, George North will win his 100th cap on Saturday.
At 28 years and 320 days, he will eclipse Australia captain Michael Hooper by four weeks as the youngest player to reach a century of caps for their country.
North and Jonathan Davies form Wales’ centre pairing, having recovered from foot and ankle injuries respectively, while wing Josh Adams returns after serving a two-match ban for breaching coronavirus protocols.
Elsewhere, Liam Williams moves from wing to full-back, replacing Leigh Halfpenny, Kieran Hardy is preferred to Gareth Davies at scrumhalf and flanker Josh Navidi also starts.
Halfpenny failed a head injury assessment against Scotland 12 days ago after going off just before half-time.
Wales head coach Wayne Pivac has made five changes and one positional switch from the side that won 25-24 at Murrayfield.
It will be Navidi’s first Wales start since the Six Nations game against England at Twickenham almost a year ago, while Hardy has not previously featured in the tournament.
Victory for Wales over England would clinch the Triple Crown and keep Pivac’s team firmly on a Six Nations title course heading into appointments with Italy and France next month.
Pivac said: “Saturday is a great milestone for George. It is a huge achievement at his age and we are looking forward to seeing him in action.
“We’ve had a great two weeks leading into this game and we are looking forward to Saturday.
“We continue to build and we know there is plenty left in us in terms of improvements from the opening two rounds. We want to continue to improve, performance-wise.”
Wales: L Williams (Scarlets); L Rees-Zammit (Gloucester), G North (Ospreys), J Davies (Scarlets), J Adams (Cardiff Blues); D Biggar (Northampton), K Hardy (Scarlets); W Jones (Scarlets), K Owens (Scarlets), T Francis (Exeter); A Beard (Ospreys), A W Jones (Ospreys, capt); J Navidi (Cardiff Blues), J Tipuric (Ospreys), T Faletau (Bath).
Replacements: E Dee (Dragons), R Jones (Ospreys), L Brown (Dragons), C Hill (Cardiff Blues), J Botham (Cardiff Blues), G Davies (Scarlets), C Sheedy (Bristol), W Halaholo (Cardiff Blues).
England: Elliot Daly (Saracens); Anthony Watson (Bath), Henry Slade (Exeter), Owen Farrell (Saracens), Jonny May (Gloucester); George Ford (Leicester), Ben Youngs (Leicester); Mako Vunipola (Saracens), Jamie George (Saracens), Kyle Sinckler (Bristol); Maro Itoje (Saracens), Jonny Hill (Exeter); Mark Wilson (Newcastle), Tom Curry (Sale Sharks), Billy Vunipola (Saracens).
Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter), Ellis Genge (Leicester), Will Stuart (Bath), Charlie Ewels (Bath), George Martin (Leicester), Ben Earl (Bristol), Dan Robson (Wasps), Max Malins (Bristol).