Maro Itoje handed full England debut as Eddie Jones makes two changes for Ireland clash
Published 25/02/2016 | 10:11
Maro Itoje will make his full England debut in Saturday's RBS 6 Nations showdown with Ireland at Twickenham.
Itoje is promoted to the starting XV for his second cap after Joe Launchbury was ruled out of the contest against the champions by a hamstring problem, with Courtney Lawes supplying second-row cover from the bench.
"Joe Launchbury is unlucky to miss out through injury. Maro Itoje is selected as a result and we're pleased for him," head coach Eddie Jones said.
Itoje impressed during a second-half cameo at the Stadio Olimpico that lasted 28 minutes as Italy were crushed 40-9 amid a late flurry of tries.
The 21-year-old reinforced the Red Rose assault at blindside flanker, replacing Chris Robshaw, but has played most of his senior rugby at lock - the position from which he captained England to victory during the 2014 World Junior Championship.
He was set to feature on the bench against Ireland until Launchbury was ruled out by a hamstring injury on Wednesday afternoon, resulting in Lawes' return to the squad's Surrey training camp and clearing a path for Itoje to start.
The adjustment at lock is one of two changes made to the starting XV that demolished Italy after Joe Marler swaps places with Mako Vunipola once again.
Elliot Daly makes his first appearance in England's match day 22 and joins Vunipola on the bench.
The uncapped Wasps centre has benefited from the concussion sustained by Ollie Devoto and could make his debut in the second half against Joe Schmidt's injury-hit team.
Daly has been the outstanding English centre in the Aviva Premiership this season and Jones believes he offers cover in both midfield positions and at full-back.
"Elliot Daly has worked hard this week and is now ready for a place in the 23. He can provide cover in several positions in the back line," Jones said.
"Joe Marler made a big impact off the bench in Rome and will start at loosehead with Mako Vunipola finishing the game.
"I have been pleased with the attitude the squad have shown during a comprehensive two weeks of training.
"Everyone is pushing hard to be in contention so there were some tight calls on selection."
England have opened Jones' first Six Nations with victories over Scotland and Italy, but the visit of Ireland to Twickenham offers a far sterner test of their title credentials.
"Playing our first game at Twickenham after two away fixtures will be huge for us," Jones said.
"We're determined to put in a strong performance against a clever Irish side who are the benchmark of European rugby."
England team to face Ireland in RBS 6 Nations at Twickenham, on Saturday, February 27 (kick-off 4.50pm):
M Brown (Harlequins); A Watson (Bath), J Joseph (Bath), O Farrell (Saracens), J Nowell (Exeter); G Ford (Bath), B Youngs (Leicester); J Marler (Harlequins), D Hartley (Northampton, capt), D Cole (Leicester), M Itoje (Saracens), G Kruis (Saracens), C Robshaw (Harlequins), J Haskell (Wasps), B Vunipola (Saracens).
Replacements: J George (Saracens), M Vunipola (Saracens), P Hill (Northampton), C Lawes (Northampton), J Clifford (Harlequins), D Care (Harlequins), E Daly (Wasps), A Goode (Saracens).