By Mitch Phillips
BAGSHOT, England (Reuters) – England co-captain Dylan Hartley will start on the bench against Australia on Saturday with Jamie George wearing the hooker’s jersey, while Manu Tuilagi is set for his first appearance for two years after also being named among the replacements.
After his try-scoring debut in the 35-15 victory over Japan last week, Joe Cokanasiga retains his place on the wing with injuries ruling out Chris Ashton and Jack Nowell. Jonny May is on the other wing.
The back row comprises Sam Underhill, Brad Shields and number eight Mark Wilson, with replacement Nathan Hughes set for his first appearance in the autumn test series after returning from suspension.
Owen Farrell returns at flyhalf with Ben Te’o and Henry Slade outside him.
“We’ve picked our best 23 for the Australia game,” said coach Eddie Jones, after making eight changes to the side that beat Japan last Saturday.
“We know they have a unique style of attack so our ability to defend that is going to be important. We are continually working on our strengths which is our set piece and our defence and they are areas that are progressing nicely.”
British and Irish Lions hooker George has usually played backup to Hartley and though he started against Japan, Thursday’s selection looks a significant change in terms of Jones’s World Cup plans.
Tuilagi was initially named among the replacements for the opening game against South Africa but withdrew with a groin injury that has kept him on the sidelines since.
The powerful Leicester centre has played only a few minutes for England since his last start in 2014 after suffering a series of injuries. but Jones has long been an admirer.
Since losing to the Wallabies in the pool stage of the 2015 World Cup, England have won all five of the teams’ meetings, including a 3-0 series sweep in Australia in 2016.
It was exactly 15 years ago that England triumphed over Australia to win the World Cup, the first and still the only northern hemisphere nation to win it.
England team to face Australia:
15 Elliot Daly (Wasps, 24 caps)14 Joe Cokanasiga (Bath Rugby, 1 cap)13 Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs, 16 caps)12 Ben Te’o (Worcester Warriors, 15 caps)11 Jonny May (Leicester Tigers, 39 caps)10 Owen Farrell (Saracens, 64 caps) co-captain9 Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 79 caps) 1 Ben Moon (Exeter Chiefs, 3 caps)2 Jamie George (Saracens, 31 caps)3 Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins, 16 caps)4 Maro Itoje (Saracens, 25 caps)5 Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, 67 caps)6 Brad Shields (Wasps, 4 caps)7 Sam Underhill (Bath Rugby, 8 caps)8 Mark Wilson (Newcastle Falcons, 7 caps) Replacements16 Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints, 96 caps) co-captain17 Alec Hepburn (Exeter Chiefs, 5 caps)18 Harry Williams (Exeter Chiefs, 14 caps)19 Charlie Ewels (Bath Rugby, 9 caps)20 Nathan Hughes (Wasps, 17 caps)21 Richard Wigglesworth (Saracens, 32 caps)22 George Ford (Leicester Tigers, 50 caps)23 Manu Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers, 26 caps)
(Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by John Stonestreet)