Ben Youngs, Mako Vunipola and Courtney Lawes return to the starting line-up for England's game against Italy in Rome on Sunday
It may be Valentine’s Day on Sunday, but England coach Eddie Jones won’t be giving Italy any presents in Rome, naming a strong side to face the Azzurri with three changes from last week’s win over Scotland.
Most notable among the changes is the promotion to the starting XV of scrum-half Ben Youngs (Leicester), who gets the nod ahead of Harlequins’ Danny Care.
The only other changes to the starting line-up come in the pack, with Mako Vunipola replacing Joe Marler at loosehead and Courtney Lawes proving his fitness to be named ahead of Joe Launchbury in the second-row.
Launchbury drops to the bench, where he is joined by Saracens prodigy Maro Itoje, who travelled to Murrayfield last week but not as part of the matchday squad.
Paul Hill (Northampton) is the other uncapped bench player, having been unused against Scotland on Saturday.
“We’ve made a few changes to the line up for Italy. I believe this is the strongest 23 to go to Rome and get the performance and result we want.” Jones said. “Mako, Ben and Courtney have been pushing hard for selection during training, but they also fit the game plan we want to implement against Italy. Danny, Joe Marler and Joe Launchbury will all have a significant roles to play to finish the game.”
“It has been an intense week of training and I am pleased with how the group have responded to some of the things we’ve asked them to do. Maro has consistently impressed me this week and, together with his excellent club form, has deserved his call up to the match day squad.”
England team to face Italy on Sunday
M Brown (Harlequins); A Watson (Bath), J Joseph (Bath), O Farrell (Saracens), J Nowell (Exeter Chiefs); G Ford (Bath), B Youngs (Leicester Tigers); M Vunipola (Saracens), D Hartley (Northampton Saints), D Cole (Leicester Tigers), C Lawes (Northampton Saints), G Kruis (Saracens), C Robshaw (Harlequins), J Haskell (Wasps), B Vunipola (Saracens).
Replacements J George (Saracens), J Marler (Harlequins), P Hill (Northampton), J Launchbury (Wasps), M Itoje (Saracens, uncapped), J Clifford (Harlequins), D Care (Harlequins), A Goode (Saracens)