Farrell to skipper powerful England side for Tonga opener

England are taking no chances for their World Cup opener on Sunday in Sapporo after Eddie Jones named a near full-strength side to take on Tonga.

England are taking no chances for their World Cup opener on Sunday in Sapporo after Eddie Jones named a near full-strength side to take on Tonga.

Owen Farrell will captain the side from inside centre with George Ford at No.10 and Manu Tuilagi at outside centre – the same midfield combination that put eight tries on Ireland at Twickenham last month.

Ben Youngs gets the nod at No.9 and becomes the first England scrum-half to appear at three World Cups while the back three comprises Elliot Daly, Jonny May and Anthony Watson.

Up front Jamie George packs down with Joe Marler and Kyle Sinckler either side.

Courtney Lawes is one of the few surprises, bringing his bulk into the second row alongside Maro Itoje to combat the Tongans’ customary physicality.

In the back row Jones again pairs his ‘Kamikaze Kids’ Tom Curry and Sam Underhill either side of No.8 Billy Vunipola who takes on his homeland for the first time.

Jones said: “The focus this week has been about getting right for Tonga. We have had a good seven days in Japan where we have acclimatised really well, our sleep patterns are good and the physical conditioning of the players is outstanding.

“Now it is about putting in a game plan against Tonga and it is important to be tactically right. We know they are going to be ferocious and full of pride and passion. They are a side if they get a bit of momentum they can be very dangerous and are well-coached by Toutai Kefu. They have a great World Cup record and we will need to be at our best on Sunday.

“I don’t think there is anyone who isn’t excited about getting out there on Sunday and there is a good feeling around the place. We are delighted to be up here in Sapporo and to play at the stadium will be a unique experience for us and something the team is looking forward to.”

On the bench, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Ellis Genge and Dan Cole cover the front row with George Kruis and Lewis Ludlam the other forward replacements.

Behind the scrum, Willi Heinz and Jonathan Joseph cover the backline along with Henry Slade – who missed the whole of the summer warm-up campaign with a knee problem but could be in line for a return.

With an average age of 26 years and 170 days, England’s starting XV are the 2nd youngest side by twelve days that they have put out in a Rugby World Cup match. The only younger team they have fielded at a Rugby World Cup was also against Tonga at RWC 1999.

England starting XV 15. Elliot Daly (Saracens, 33 caps) 14. Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby, 36 caps) 13. Manu Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers, 35 caps) 12. Owen Farrell (Saracens, 73 caps) C 11. Jonny May (Leicester Tigers, 47 caps) 10. George Ford (Leicester Tigers, 59 caps) 9. Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 89 caps)

1. Joe Marler (Harlequins, 62 caps) 2. Jamie George (Saracens, 40 caps) 3. Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins, 25 caps) 4. Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, 75 caps) 5. Maro Itoje (Saracens, 29 caps) 6. Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, 13 caps) 7. Sam Underhill (Bath Rugby, 10 caps) .8 Billy Vunipola (Saracens, 45 caps)

Replacements:  16. Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, 15 caps) 17. Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers, 12 caps ) 18. Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers, 89 caps) 19. George Kruis (Saracens, 35 caps) 20. Lewis Ludlam (Northampton Saints, 2 caps) 21. Willi Heinz (Gloucester Rugby, 4 caps) 22. Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs, 22 caps) 23. Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby, 42 caps)