England's Jones reunites World Cup back-row for Ireland clash

London (AFP) –


England coach Eddie Jones has opted to deploy his World Cup back-row of No 8 Bully Vunipola and flankers Tom Curry and Sam Underhill for Saturday's Autumn Nations Cup international against Ireland at Twickenham.

The trio are reunited for just the second time since a 2019 World Cup final defeat by South Africa after featuring in last month's win over Italy that saw England clinch the Six Nations title.

Saturday's fixture is set to be England's hardest match since lockdown after an easy win over Italy was followed by last week's 40-0 Twickenham rout of Georgia in their Nations Cup opener.

Maro Itoje has moved from the back row to the second row while Jonathan Joseph, fit following a back problem takes his place in an unchanged back division.

Ollie Lawrence makes his second start in the centres alongside Henry Slade, with Jones reverting to his strongest front row of Mako Vunipola, Jamie George and Kyle Sinckler.

Meanwhile fly-half George Ford is on the bench following a foot injury.

Jones said he had opted for "our strongest back-row for this game".

"Playing against Ireland, who are the strongest poaching team in the world, the number one poaching team in Europe, we need an aggressive, low to the ground back-row, and Sam Underhill and Tom Curry are outstanding in that area."

Curry, looking forward to being reunited with Underhill and Vunipola, said: "Sam is brilliant defensively, you can always rely on him especially around the tackle contest, the breakdown.

"Being able to play off Billy in attack is brilliant, guaranteed to get the ball forward and open spaces around him."

Curry, however, knows from bitter experience the importance of maintaining discipline after being sin-binned in his first Test against Ireland, in Dublin last year.

"I don't want to bring it up again but that yellow card, it's a big learning curve as far as these intense games, making sure that personally I stay clear in my role," he said.

- 'Ford nous' -

Jones resisted the temptation to move captain Owen Farrell from fly-half to inside centre so as to have Ford, whom he said wasn't quite ready to start, in his run-on XV.

"George is a very, very talented No 10," said Jones. "He's been a mainstay of our team.

"He's played 69 Tests and for him to come on in the last part of the game and add his tactical nous, his tactical kicking, his goal-kicking if needed and his distribution skills will be very handy for us."

England are currently top of Pool A in the Autumn Nations Cup and have won their last three matches against Ireland, including a 24-12 Six Nations win in February.

Ireland, coached by Andy Farrell -- the father of Owen -- overwhelmed Wales 32-9 last week.

"Ireland were very happy with their dominant performance against Wales," said Jones. "I know Andy Farrell very well, they will be well prepared.

"They are always tough, engrossing, hard-fought encounters and Saturday is going to be exactly the same.

"Eighteen months ago they were ranked number one in the world so it shows you the class and ability of this team," the former Australia and Japan boss added.

"We know we've got to be at our best to get the result we want to get."

England (15-1)

Elliot Daly; Jonathan Joseph, Ollie Lawrence, Henry Slade, Jonny May; Owen Farrell (capt), Ben Youngs; Billy Vunipola, Sam Underhill, Tom Curry; Joe Launchbury, Maro Itoje; Kyle Sinckler, Jamie George, Mako Vunipola

Replacements: Tom Dunn, Ellis Genge, Will Stuart, Jonny Hill, Ben Earl, Dan Robson, George Ford, Max Malins

Coach: Eddie Jones (AUS)