Billy Vunipola has been declared fit to start Saturday’s Rugby World Cup quarter-final with Australia in Oita, as Eddie Jones makes three changes to the team which defeated Argentina 39-10.
Vunipola has recovered from an ankle injury suffered against Los Pumas a fortnight ago and will take his place alongside brother Mako, who replaces Joe Marler at loose-head prop.
Courtney Lawes is preferred to George Kruis in the second-row, while in-form George Ford has been dropped to the bench in favour of Exeter Chiefs’ back Henry Slade.
It means captain Owen Farrell will switch from inside centre to fly-half with Slade playing alongside Manu Tulagi, as the pair that started four of England’s five Six Nations matches reunite in midfield.
In the only other change to the 23-man squad that faced Argentina, Jack Nowell is out with a hamstring injury having not trained this week, with Jonathan Joseph earning a recall.
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) October 16, 2019
“We feel Mako (Vunipola) is ready to play a significant part in this game with his ability to scrummage and be effective in general play,” said England coach Eddie Jones.
“George Ford will finish the game and will have a significant role for us. We just feel at the start of the game it’s going to be brutal and having Owen at 10 will serve the team in the best interests.
“The game of rugby is pretty simple. You’ve got to win the ball, control the ball and score points when you’ve got it.
“The Australians are a clever team who will have some specific attacking strategies against us, so we will need to have a greater situational awareness, to defend with brutality and play on top of them”
England: Elliot Daly, Anthony Watson, Henry Slade, Manu Tuilagi, Jonny May, Owen Farrell, 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, Lewis Ludlam, Willie Heinz, George Ford, Jonathan Joseph.