Eddie Jones's side begin their autumn campaign against Tonga at Twickenham
England v Tonga Preview
Whatever else came earlier in the week, the news that Owen Farrell was declared out of the fixture just an hour and 15 minutes before this Test has coloured the build-up.
George Furbank – who has only started five games for Northampton Saints at fly-half, losing four of them – will fill the Farrell-shaped hole and Courtney Lawes will be captain.
Before this happening on the day, the build-up to England‘s opening match of the autumn featured the news of a partnership between the RFU and Tonga. This involves the RFU giving Tonga a six-figure match fee as well as the sharing of support staff between the two unions.
RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney said: “Diversity is central to our strategic plan and we are delighted our England teams will have the opportunity to gain great knowledge from Tonga and their rich rugby heritage. We are looking forward to having a closer working relationship with Tonga.”
The two teams may be working together away from the pitch, but the gloves will come off at Twickenham on Saturday. England will be looking to build good foundations for their other autumn Tests against Australia and South Africa while Tonga will want to improve upon their heavy defeat by Scotland last Saturday.
If history is anything to go by, Eddie Jones’s men should come out on top. Tonga have never beaten their hosts and the last time the two teams played one another was at the 2019 Rugby World Cup, where England defeated their opponents 35-3.
In our England v Tonga preview below, you’ll find the team news, coaches’ views and more.
What’s the big England v Tonga team news?
Ben Youngs is set to win his 110th England cap while, in contrast, fellow scrum-half Alex Mitchell is set to win his first cap from the bench. Freddie Steward will start at full-back with Adam Radwan on the wing and Manu Tuilagi plays his first Test since March 2020.
In the forwards, Tom Curry is named at No 8 with Alex Dombrandt on the bench. Courtney Lawes and Sam Underhill complete the back row while Jamie George, who wasn’t initially called up for the autumn Tests, starts at hooker. Curry, Lawes and Ellis Genge have all been named vice-captain for the autumn Internationals.
Meanwhile, Tonga have made nine changes to the team that lost to Scotland last Saturday – more players are available for this fixture as it falls inside the official international window.
Lopeti Timani and Afusipa Taumoepeau make their Tonga Test debuts having become eligible for the islanders after playing in an Olympic sevens event over the summer. Wing Solomone Kata also wins his first cap.
Sonatane Takulua captains the side from scrum-half while there is an experienced front row of Sigfried Fisi’ihoi, Paula Ngauamo and Ben Tameifuna.
What have the coaches said?
England head coach Eddie Jones: “We respect Tonga greatly and we know that with props like Siegfried Fisi’ihoi and Ben Tameifuna, we are going to have to go in the front door before the back door.
“We’re especially looking forward to getting back out in front of a full crowd at Twickenham and playing some entertaining, exciting rugby for all of the supporters. We can’t wait to have them back.”
Tonga defence coach Grant Doorey: “The group that we had last week had never played together, have trained together for three sessions in the lead-up to a Test match against Scotland. There’s 50,000 people in a stadium, so there’s significantly more pressure than a lot of them have been used to previously.
“It’s about combinations, connections and the confidence that you get from that, so we’ve had to really focus in on simplifying those combinations and connections this week.”
What time does it kick-off and is England v Tonga on TV?
The match will kick-off at 3.15pm on Saturday 6 November at Twickenham Stadium.
Referee Craig Evans, assistants Adam Jones and Andrea Piardi and TMO Ben Whitehouse will officiate the clash.
England v Tonga will be shown live on Amazon Prime Video.
Related: Autumn Nations Series TV coverage
What are the line-ups?
England: Freddie Steward; Adam Radwan, Henry Slade, Manu Tuilagi, Jonny May; Owen Farrell (captain), Ben Youngs; Ellis Genge, Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, Jonny Hill, Courtney Lawes, Sam Underhill, Tom Curry.
Replacements: Jamie Blamire, Joe Marler, Will Stuart, Charlie Ewels, Alex Dombrandt, Alex Mitchell, Marcus Smith, George Furbank
Tonga: Telusa Veainu; Walter Fifita, Mailetoa Hingano, Afusipa Taumoepeau, Solomone Kata; Kurt Morath, Sonatane Takulua (captain); Sigfried Fisi’ihoi, Paula Ngauamo, Ben Tameifuna, Halaleva Fifita, Tanginoa Halaifonua, Lopeti Timani, Mateaki Kafatolu, Sione Vailanu.
Replacements: Siua Maile, Loni Uhila, Ma’afu Fia, Setofano Funaki, Onehunga Havili, Leon Fukofuka, James Faiva, Viliami Fine.
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