By Mitch Phillips
LONDON (Reuters) – Manu Tuilagi will make his first England start for five years after being named at inside centre for Saturday’s Six Nations opener in Ireland, where Elliot Daly retains the fullback jersey and Jack Nowell and Jonny May will fill the wings.
Coach Eddie Jones named his squad at England’s Portugal training base on Thursday.
There had been speculation that Mike Brown could be recalled at fullback to deal with Ireland’s aerial threat, but Jones kept faith with Daly and has Chris Ashton on the bench as back-three cover. Brown did not make the match squad.
Henry Slade lines up outside Tuilagi, who is back playing regularly for Leicester after years of injury woes.
Prop Mako and number eight Billy Vunipola return after missing the November series through injury while Tom Curry (openside) and Mark Wilson (blindside) complete the back row.
Uncapped scrumhalf Dan Robson is on the bench, with Ben Youngs starting.
“I think it is quite clear to beat Ireland you have to beat them in the contest area,” Jones said in a statement. “They are very good at the breakdown and in the air. Both those areas are a priority for us.”
England, who finished fifth in last year’s Six Nations, have lost their last two games against 2018 Grand Slam champions Ireland and have not won in Dublin since 2013.
“It is well documented no one thinks we can win but I can tell you everyone inside our camp believes we can win,” Jones said. “We are hugely looking forward to the weekend.”
The championship gets underway in Paris on Friday when France play Wales. Scotland face Italy on Saturday.
England team to play Ireland
15 Elliot Daly (Wasps, 25 caps)14 Jonny May (Leicester Tigers, 40 caps)13 Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs, 17 caps)12 Manu Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers, 27 caps)11 Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs, 29 caps)10 Owen Farrell (Saracens, 65 caps)9 Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 80 caps) 1 Mako Vunipola (Saracens, 51 caps)2 Jamie George (Saracens, 32 caps)3 Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins, 17 caps)4 Maro Itoje (Saracens, 26 caps)5 George Kruis (Saracens, 27 caps)6 Mark Wilson (Newcastle Falcons, 8 caps)7 Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, 5 caps)8 Billy Vunipola (Saracens, 36 caps) Replacements:
16 Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, 7 caps)17 Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers, 5 caps)18 Harry Williams (Exeter Chiefs, 15 caps)19 Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, 68 caps)20 Nathan Hughes (Wasps, 18 caps)21 Dan Robson (Wasps, uncapped)22 George Ford (Leicester Tigers, 51 caps)23 Chris Ashton (Sale Sharks, 42 caps)
(Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Ed Osmond)