By Mitch Phillips
TOKYO (Reuters) – England coach Eddie Jones has reverted to his twin playmaker approach by recalling George Ford at flyhalf and shifting Owen Farrell to centre for Saturday’s World Cup semi-final against New Zealand.
That had been his preferred approach in the pool phase of the tournament but he dropped Ford to the bench for the quarter-final win over Australia.
Henry Slade drops to the bench, with Manu Tuilagi moving to outside centre.
The only other change is on the bench, where Mark Wilson replaces Lewis Ludlam as back row cover.
Jonny May has recovered from a hamstring strain to start on the left wing, with Anthony Watson on the right and Elliot Daly at fullback.
“When you get to this stage of the World Cup it is all about focusing on being in the moment and getting yourself physically right,” Jones said.
“The squad has approached the game well with real maturity. It has helped having players here who have been on the Lions tour and played against New Zealand. They have been involved in some of the biggest games in world rugby so this semi-final won’t faze them.
“New Zealand are a great team … like any good team, you have to take away time and space from them and you have to find areas you can pressure them. We believe we have identified a number of areas where we can do that.”
Commenting on number eight Billy Vunipola’s 50th cap, he added: “It is a great achievement for Billy to reach 50 test matches for England and something that is very special for the team. I know his family will be very proud of him and even more so to play the game alongside his brother Mako.”
England have beaten New Zealand only once in their last 16 meetings, though the last game between them was a close one as the All Blacks came from 15-0 down to win 16-15 at Twickenham a year ago.
They last reached the final in 2007, losing to South Africa, while New Zealand are seeking a third successive title and have not lost a World Cup game since the 2007 quarter-finals.
England: 15-Elliot Daly, 14-Anthony Watson, 13-Manu Tuilagi, 12-Owen Farrell (captain) 11-Jonny May, 10-George Ford, 9-Ben Youngs, 8-Billy Vunipola, 7-Sam Underhill, 6-Tom Curry, 5-Courtney Lawes, 4-Maro Itoje, 3-Kyle Sinckler, 2-Jamie George, 1-Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16-Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17-Joe Marler, 18-Dan Cole, 19-George Kruis, 20-Mark Wilson, 21-Willi Heinz, 22-Henry Slade, 23-Jonathan Joseph.
(Editing by Nick Tattersall)