England team news: George Ford to start against Wales as Jack Willis makes bench

Will Macpherson
·3-min read

Eddie Jones has recalled fly-half George Ford to his starting side to face a Wales side who “have been written off” on Saturday and beefed up his bench by including Jack Willis, an extra forward.

Jones has made just one changes to the starting side that beat Ireland 18-7 at Twickenham last Saturday, with Ford coming into a reconfigured midfield to replace Ollie Lawrence, who has a hip injury.

That sees captain Owen Farrell and Henry Slade move out a position each for the Autumn Nations Cup clash. It is the first time Ford, Farrell and Slade have teamed up in midfield since the tour of South Africa in 2018, with Jones generally opting for a heavier carrier to complement their silkier skills.

Jones has resisted the temptation to select Joe Marler, who has not played for England since picking up a 10-week ban for fondling Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones’ testicles in the Six Nations meeting between the sides in March.

Willis scored on his debut against Georgia a fortnight ago and, after returning to Wasps and scoring and picking up the man of the match award against Bristol, he is recalled.

England last employed a powerful 6-2 bench when winning the Triple Crown in the spring.

Anthony Watson also returns from injury on the bench (with Jonathan Joseph retaining his spot on the right wing), so Max Malins is the back to miss out.

England need just a point to make the final of the tournament, which would likely be against France. Jones was wary of the Welsh threat.

“Wales are in a situation they probably relish,” he said. "They've been written off. They're playing at the heart of soul of Welsh rugby in Llanelli, so there's a lot of symbolism for them, and nothing would make their season sweeter than having a win over England.

“We're expecting a really tough, brutal sort of game. Twelve months ago they were Grand Slam champions and three points away from making a World Cup final. They've got the same players. They're a talented team and we'll have to be at our best to make the best of the chances they're going to put out.”

Wales have also named their side for the game after a ending a six-game losing streak last Saturday against Georgia, with coach Wayne Pivac making eight changes ti the starting team.

Pivac has again selected James Botham, the grandson of cricket legend Ian, on the flank after making his first start against Georgia. Wing Louis Rees-Zammit and centre Johnny Williams are also retained after first starts in that win.

Botham is in the back-row alongside Taulupe Faletau and Shane Lewis-Hughes after Justin Tipuric and Josh Navidi were unable to prove their fitness after concussion.

Scrum-half Lloyd Williams makes his first start in four years, alongside Dan Biggar. Full-back Liam Williams has failed to prove his fitness, so Leigh Halfpenny starts.

England XV: Elliot Daly, Jonathan Joseph, Henry Slade, Owen Farrell, Jonny May, George Ford, Ben Youngs, Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, Joe Launchbury, Tom Curry, Sam Underhill, Billy Vunipola

Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Ellis Genge, Will Stuart, Jonny Hill, Ben Earl, Jack Willis, Dan Robson, Anthony Watson

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