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England drop 'disappointed' George Ford to bench for Australia quarter-final

Eddie Jones has sprung a big surprise by bringing Henry Slade into the team at outside centre.

ENGLAND COACH Eddie Jones insisted fly-half George Ford has a “significant role to play” on Thursday after he dropped him to the bench for Saturday’s World Cup quarter-final against Australia.

Ford has been one of England’s leading players in Japan but Jones moved captain Owen Farrell from inside centre to out-half, with Henry Slade given his first start of the tournament alongside Manu Tuilagi in midfield.

england-v-argentina-pool-c-2019-rugby-world-cup-tokyo-stadium George Ford has been dropped to the bench. Source: Ashley Western

Jones, however, insisted Ford would still play a major part in Saturday’s crunch clash between the old rivals in Oita.

“George is in the 23, we have a starting team and a finishing team,” he said at England’s hotel in Beppu on Thursday.

“I spoke to him this morning and he’s obviously disappointed, but everyone has a role in the team. He has got a significant role to play.”

Farrell, who has plenty of Test experience at 10, said: “I’ve played fly-half plenty of times before, it’s more about how I can fit in the team and get us in the place where we can perform well at the weekend.”

Jones, the Wallabies’ coach when they lost the 2003 World Cup final to England in Sydney, insisted: “It’s always a horses for courses situation, we are always looking to pick the right team for the right game.”

Slade, hampered by a knee injury, has played just 40 minutes of rugby since the end of the English domestic season in June.

Jones made three personnel changes and two positional switches as England look to secure a semi-final against either reigning champions New Zealand or Ireland.

Mako Vunipola returns at loosehead prop following a hamstring injury sustained during a win over Argentina in what became England’s final group match, after their Pool C finale against France was cancelled because of Typhoon Hagibis.

 

england-v-argentina-pool-c-2019-rugby-world-cup-tokyo-stadium Mako Vunipola has returned to the starting XV. Source: Ashley Western

Meanwhile, Courtney Lawes returns to the second row alongside Maro Itoje. Prop Joe Marler and lock George Kruis are on the bench.

“Mako has been training exceptionally well. His ability to be influential warrants his selection,” Jones said.

The two positional changes are Farrell’s shift and Tuilagi’s move from outside to inside centre.

“Australia defend a certain way and we believe those players can trouble their defence, defensively we feel that 10-12-13 combination is a strong combination,” said Jones.

“We believe those three guys are well-equipped to handle it,” he added.

Australia centre Samu Kerevi has been one of the star players for a Wallabies side coached by Michael Cheika, a former team-mate of Jones’s at Sydney club Randwick.

“Samu Kerevi is a good ball-carrier but we’ve got the capability to defend against him,” said Jones.

“Australia are a good tournament team, they are well coached by Michael and and we will have to play well to beat them.” 

Meanwhile Billy Vunipola has recovered from the ankle injury he suffered against the Pumas almost a fortnight ago, with the powerful number eight proving his fitness in training on Wednesday.

japan-rugby-wcup-england Billy Vunipola starts at number eight. Source: Aaron Favila

In the backs, wing Jonny May – averaging a try every two games – wins his 50th cap.

England have won all six of their Tests against Australia since Jones took over as coach after the 2015 World Cup, where the Wallabies condemned hosts England to a first-round exit with a 33-13 victory at Twickenham.

But former Japan coach Jones played down that record, saying: “The great thing about a World Cup is each game is a match by itself. 

“What you’ve done in the past doesn’t affect what you do on Saturday.”

Cheika, who oversaw that 2015 win over England, was due to name his side later Thursday.

England (v Australia):

15. Elliot Daly
14. Anthony Watson
13. Henry Slade
12. Manu Tuilagi
11. Jonny May
10. Owen Farrell (captain)
9. Ben Youngs

1. Mako Vunipola
2. Jamie George
3. Kyle Sinckler
4. Maro Itoje
5. Courtney Lawes
6. Tom Curry
7. Sam Underhill
8. Billy Vunipola

Replacements:

16. Luke Cowan-Dickie
17. Joe Marler
18. Dan Cole
19. George Kruis
20. Lewis Ludlam
21. Willi Heinz
22. George Ford
23. Jonathan Joseph

© – AFP 2019  

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