England ring changes for massive Wallabies clash

 Eddie Jones (Getty)
Eddie Jones (Getty)

London - Manu Tuilagi moved closer to a long-awaited Test comeback after being named on the bench for England's concluding November international against Australia at Twickenham on Saturday.

Also among the replacements was England co-captain Dylan Hartley -- the first time the hooker has been left out of the starting XV by England coach Eddie Jones when available against a Tier One or leading nation.

Leicester centre Tuilagi has not played for England since 2016, largely because of a succession of groin, knee and hamstring injuries.

The powerhouse midfielder was withdrawn from the bench on the eve of England's nailbiting 12-11 victory over South Africa in their November opener with a groin strain.

"He came through yesterday's session really well and therefore he's ready to go," said Jones at England's training base in Bagshot, southwest of London on Thursday.

"Manu absolutely can't wait to get out there. He skins everyone at the pool table so hopefully he can do that on the field as well," he added.

Jones has made nine changes to the starting XV that beat Japan 35-15 at Twickenham last weekend for Saturday's clash with his native Australia.

Injuries to wings Chris Ashton and Jack Nowell have seen the recall of Jonny May, with Joe Cokanasiga, who played from the start in his debut against Japan, retaining his place.

Co-captain Owen Farrell, who came off the bench against Japan, is reunited with Ben Youngs as England revert to their first-choice half-back pairing, with Danny Care -- the starting scrumhalf against Japan -- no longer even in the matchday 23.

But Jamie George, who started in place of Hartley last weekend, retains his place at hooker.

"We think Australia will come out like they normally do -- like a bull in a china shop," said Jones.

"Jamie is a very good defender and is very good when the play is open. I think he suits us in that first period of the game.

"I think the last part of the game is going to be bit of an arm wrestle and that's where Dylan is at his best," added Jones.

Victory over the Wallabies would mean England had won three of their four November internationals, with the only loss a 16-15 defeat by world champions New Zealand.

Jones has won all five of his Tests against Australia since taking charge of England following their first-round exit on home soil at the 2015 World Cup -- which included a group-stage defeat by the Wallabies.

But he was unconcerned by that record, saying: "Saturday is the game that counts. We know we've got to be at our best because Australia will put in their best performance of the year.

"This is the game that they've been waiting for. That's all we're worried about. History is for you blokes (the media)," he insisted.

Thursday's team announcement coincided with the 15th anniversary of England's 2003 World Cup final win over an Australia side coached by Jones.

Current Wallaby boss Michael Cheika was due to name his side later on Thursday, with Australia fresh from a 26-7 win over Italy in Padua last weekend.

Jones and Cheika played in the same side at Sydney club Randwick but the England boss played down talk of a rivalry with his old team-mate.

"Well the funny thing is we're not playing each other -- at least I don't think so," he said. "There's no warm-up game is there? So it's completely irrelevant."

England team to play Australia at Twickenham on Saturday (17:00 SA time).



15 Elliot Daly, 14 Joe Cokanasiga, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Ben Te'o, 11 Jonny May, 10 Owen Farrell (captain), 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Mark Wilson, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Brad Shields, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Jamie George, Ben Moon 

Substitutes: 16 Dylan Hartley, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Harry Williams, 19 Charlie Ewels, 20 Nathan Hughes, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 George Ford, 23 Manu Tuilagi


15 Israel Folau; 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Bernard Foley, 11 Jack Maddocks; 10 Matt To'omua, 9 Will Genia; 8 David Pocock, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Jack Dempsey; 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Izack Roda; 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tolu Latu, 1 Scott Sio

Substitutes: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Jermaine Ainsley, 18 Allan Alaalatoa, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 Ned Hanigan, 21 Pete Samu, 22 Nick Phipps, 23 Sefa Naivalu

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