England coach Eddie Jones hands start to Billy Vunipola as he makes two changes for Ireland clash

Rhodri Cannon
Billy Vunipola

Billy Vunipola and Anthony Watson have been handed starting spots by Eddie Jones for England's final Six Nations clash against Ireland on Saturday (18 March). Vunipola will be taking the place of Nathan Hughes in the number eight spot, while Jack Nowell will make way for Watson on the right wing.

Vunipola and Watson made their first appearances in the Six Nations against Scotland last week and both scored tries on their return to action at Twickenham, as Jones' men gave the Scots a comprehensive 61-21 drubbing.

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Elliot Daly, who was a major doubt for the game against the Irish after suffering concussion during his side's title-winning performance, is set to continue at number 11 after being passed fit.

After a few rather underwhelming performances earlier in the championship, Jones revealed his delight at the approach to training from his players but has challenged them to stay mentally strong during the clash at The Aviva Stadium.

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The Australian also spoke of how tough the decision to drop Hughes was, but he believes that England will 'get a great 80 minutes' out of the number eight spot due to the combined talents of the Wasps' utility man and Vunipola.

"We've had a really good week's preparation," Jones told England's official website. "The intensity of training has been good. It's going to be quite an occasion in Dublin so we understand we have to be prepared emotionally, physically and mentally.

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"It was a tough decision at number eight, Nathan has played very well for us but we know with Billy starting and Nathan finishing for us, we will get a great 80 minutes out of that position."

"The message to the players has been quite simple, we're playing Ireland on Saturday and that is the only thing that counts. We are focusing on preparing well, the only thing we can control is our preparation."

"Ireland not having anything to play for means they have the courage to fail which frees them up mentally," Jones added. "We are a little bit vulnerable because we have already been crowned the RBS 6 Nations champions and we had a big win against Scotland, so for us it's getting the right mind-set for the game."

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