After back-to-back defeats, the first of his reign as England head coach, Eddie Jones has rung the changes for his side’s match against Ireland at Twickenham.
Ireland arrive in London as Championship winners and are just 80 minutes from a Grand Slam success after a fine NatWest 6 Nations to date.
And to add even more bite and intrigue to this Super Saturday fixture, Ireland have leapfrogged England up to second in the World Rugby rankings.
Click here for the complete 2018 NatWest 6 Nations fixture list
Eddie Jones has made seven changes to his starting XV to face Ireland and here’s what we learned from his selection decisions this afternoon.
Dylan Hartley remains Eddie Jones’ first choice at hooker with the Northampton Saint straight back into the starting line-up following his recovery from injury.
He is named as captain once again after Owen Farrell took the armband in his absence last week while Jamie George returns to the replacements bench.
Jones has returned to the tried and tested methods of Hartley at the first opportunity with the head coach hoping captain’s leadership can guide England back to winning ways.
He has a new front row partner in the added dynamism of Kyle Sinckler at Twickenham with the Harlequins prop set for his first Championship start while Dan Cole drops down to be one of Eddie Jones’ ‘finishers’.
CENTRE OF ATTENTION
Jones has stuck with George Ford and Owen Farrell in the 10/12 axis for the vast majority of his tenure to date but is trying something different for Super Saturday.
Farrell moves to fly-half with Ford dropping to the bench which allows Ben Te’o and Jonathan Joseph to link up together in midfield for the Red Rose.
It is the first time Te’o and Joseph have started together for England having shared the number 13 jersey for the entire Championship to date.
The pair did start together for the British & Irish Lions in the summer in the tourists’ 13-7 victory over the Provincial Barbarians in the Tour opener.
Richard Wigglesworth wasn’t even in Eddie Jones’ squad at the start of the Championship in February with Ben Youngs and Danny Care the only scrum-halves chosen.
However, with Youngs injury, the kicking ability of Wigglesworth was called up ahead of Dan Robson and he will start the final game of the 2018 NatWest 6 Nations.
Care is dropped to the bench with the Saracens scrum-half – partnering his clubmate Farrell in the half-backs – making his first Six Nations start at Twickenham since March 2008 when England beat Ireland 33-10.
Care returns to the ‘finisher’ role he occupied behind Ben Youngs, bringing his exuberance and energy from the bench in the latter stages of the game.
It’s an all-Saracens second row as George Kruis prepares for his first England start of the Championship at the expense of Joe Launchbury.
Kruis featured just once in the autumn and has made three substitute appearances in the 2018 NatWest 6 Nations to date.
Launchbury will still feature against Ireland though after being named amongst the replacements by Eddie Jones with further changes in the pack in the back row.
BACK ROW INJURIES
Injuries left Eddie Jones with no choice but to replace Courtney Lawes and Nathan Hughes in England’s back row with the former out ruled out for the season with knee ligament damage.
Lawes is replaced in the back row by James Haskell while Hughes, who also has an injured knee, is replaced by Sam Simmonds.
The Exeter Chief stormed into the limelight in his first Championship start against Italy scoring two tries and was in the starting XV to face Wales in round two.
Injury denied him an opportunity against Scotland and he was on the bench in Paris as England were beaten 20-16 by a resurgent France.
Simmonds is back to show what he can offer again at Twickenham while his club-mate Don Armand amongst the replacements and in line for his second cap.