England limit changes to 4 for Italy in Six Nations
LONDON (AP) Coach Eddie Jones resisted the temptation for wholesale reform by limiting England’s changes to four for the Six Nations match against last-placed Italy on Sunday at Twickenham.
There was speculation England would make more changes for a team Ireland scored 63 against in Rome two weeks ago.
But England, the only unbeaten side, has defeated France and Wales only very late, and without firing on all cylinders. The Irish romp also makes it a necessity for England to grab its first four-try bonus point and improve its overall points difference.
”It is an important test match for us and our only consideration is to play well,” Jones said on Friday.
He has given first starts of the year for openside flanker James Haskell, scrumhalf Danny Care, and centre Ben Te’o. All three have played as replacements in the first two rounds. Jonny May swapped in for Jack Nowell on the right wing.
Haskell will make his first start since the mid-year series sweep in Australia. Following that he had foot surgery. Care has been Ben Youngs’ backup since 2015, and Jones said Youngs will finish the match. This will mark Te’o’s first start for England; all five of the rugby league convert’s previous caps were as a replacement. He’s replaced Jonathan Joseph.
Captain and hooker Dylan Hartley, still getting up to match speed after another suspension, was starting again.
Also, loosehead prop Mako Vunipola was back in the matchday 23 after recovering from left knee ligament damage in December.
Vunipola featured in the Six Nations Grand Slam a year ago, in the 3-0 series win in Australia, and in all four November tests.
England goes for a 17th successive test win, one short of the tier one record held by the All Blacks.
A win would also give England a record-tying 10 straight in the championship, also achieved by England from 1882-86 and 1922-25.
England: Mike Brown, Jonny May, Ben Te’o, Owen Farrell, Elliot Daly, George Ford, Danny Care; Nathan Hughes, James Haskell, Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes, Joe Launchbury, Dan Cole, Dylan Hartley (captain), Joe Marler. Reserves: Jamie George, Mako Vunipola, Kyle Sinckler, Tom Wood, Jack Clifford, Ben Youngs, Henry Slade, Jack Nowell.