Rugby: England's Jones sticks with tried and tested against Italy


Rugby Union - Six Nations Championship - England v Scotland - Twickenham, London, Britain - February 6, 2021 England head coach Eddie Jones during the warm up before the match Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers

LONDON (Reuters) - England coach Eddie Jones has eschewed any radical surgery on his team in the wake of last week's Scotland defeat and kept faith with the bulk of his regulars to start Saturday's Six Nations match against Italy at Twickenham.

Having played poorly to lose 11-6 at home to the Scots last week, anyone hoping Jones would use the opportunity of a game England will almost certainly win to throw in some of his fresher faces will be disappointed, with exciting uncapped backs Paolo Odogwu and Harry Randall not even making the bench.

Young centre Ollie Lawrence, who has barely touched the ball in his fledgling international career, is out of the squad as Jones recalled George Ford at flyhalf and moved Owen Farrell back to centre alongside Henry Slade.

First-choice props Mako Vunipola and Kyle Sinckler return, with Luke Cowan-Dickie making his fourth start on his 28th appearance at hooker.

Courtney Lawes comes in at blindside flanker, with Tom Curry continuing at openside and Billy Vunipola at Number Eight. Jack Willis joins Ben Earl as backrow cover on the bench where Jones has opted for a 6/2 forwards/backs split.

Explaining his midfield shuffle, Jones said: "We know that George and Owen operate well at 10 and 12. We'd like to get Sladey into the game more.

"It was a difficult game for him (Lawrence against Scotland) but he's a young guy and this is all part of learning his trade. He is going to be a great player for us."

As for Randall and Odogwu, who many England fans would love to see get a run out, he said: "Both those guys are making inroads and progress and each week they get a little bit closer."

Jones said his target this week was a return to "good English rugby - that involves having good set piece, good defence and then being able to take those opportunities as they come in attack.

"We want to be playing front-foot rugby, that's when we're at our best, that's when we are one of the most damaging teams in the world and that's what we want to get back to."

Saturday's Italy clash will undoubtedly be the best opportunity England get to do that, but it is not clear how much Jones will learn from watching his established names rack up the points against a side looking more out of place in the competition with every passing season.

A callow Italy were crushed 50-10 by France in Rome last week to take their Six Nations losing streak to 28 games dating back to 2015.

They have never beaten England in their 27 meetings and have shipped an average of almost 44 points in their last eight matches against them.

England team to face Italy

15. Elliot Daly (Saracens, 48 caps)14. Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby, 47 caps)13. Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs, 35 caps)12. Owen Farrell (Captain) (Saracens, 89 caps)11. Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby, 62 caps)10. George Ford (Leicester Tigers, 73 caps)9. Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 105 caps)1. Mako Vunipola (Saracens, 63 caps)2. Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, 27 caps)3. Kyle Sinckler (Bristol Bears, 40 caps)4. Maro Itoje (Saracens, 44 caps)5. Jonny Hill (Exeter Chiefs, 5 caps)6. Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, 86 caps)7. Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, 29 caps)8. Billy Vunipola (Saracens, 57 caps) Replacements16. Jamie George (Saracens, 55 caps)17. Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers, 24 caps)18. Will Stuart (Bath Rugby, 9 caps)19. Charlie Ewels (Bath Rugby, 17 caps)20. Ben Earl (Bristol Bears, 9 caps)21. Jack Willis (Wasps, 2 caps)22. Dan Robson (Wasps, 8 caps)23. Max Malins (Bristol Bears, 4 caps)

(Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Ken Ferris)

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