By Mitch Phillips
BAGSHOT, England (Reuters) – Owen Farrell has recovered from his concussion issue and will captain England against Argentina on Sunday as Eddie Jones finally gets a serious look at his first choice creative trio of Marcus Smith, Farrell and Manu Tuilagi.
Tuilagi’s long run of injuries meant he has started in the same backline as the twin playmakers only once, and that was on the wing, against Australia a year ago.
Jones removed the captaincy from Farrell to “allow him to concentrate on his own game” but with his replacement Courtney Lawes still ruled out with concussion, his favourite “test match animal” steps back in at inside centre a year after last leading the team.
Farrell, who has been in terrific form at flyhalf for Saracens this season, was knocked out playing against Exeter on Oct. 22 but has passed his “return to play protocols” after missing England’s training camp in Jersey.
Ben Youngs has been preferred to his Leicester team mate Jack van Poortvliet as the starting scrumhalf.
Jonny May, who dislocated his elbow two weeks ago, misses out on the squad as Joe Cokanasiga and Jack Nowell are on the wing, with the hugely impressive Freddie Steward at fullback.
In Lawes’s absence, Maro Itoje moves to blindside flanker alongside Tom Curry and Billy Vunipola, with Northampton’s Alex Coles winning his first cap at lock.
After Sunday’s game England face Japan, New Zealand and South Africa, all at Twickenham.
England team15. Freddie Steward (Leicester Tigers, 13 caps)14. Jack Nowell (VC) (Exeter Chiefs, 42 caps)13. Manu Tuilagi (Sale Sharks, 46 caps)12. Owen Farrell (C) (Saracens, 97 caps)11. Joe Cokanasiga (Bath Rugby, 12 caps)10. Marcus Smith (Harlequins, 13 caps)9. Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 117 caps)1. Ellis Genge (VC) (Bristol Bears, 39 caps)2. Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, 37 caps)3. Kyle Sinckler (Bristol Bears, 52 caps)4. Alex Coles (Northampton Saints, uncapped)5. Jonny Hill (Sale Sharks, 15 caps)6. Maro Itoje (Saracens, 58 caps)7. Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, 41 caps)8. Billy Vunipola (Saracens, 64 caps)Replacements
16. Jack Singleton (Gloucester Rugby, 3 caps)17. Mako Vunipola (Saracens, 70 caps)18. Joe Heyes (Leicester Tigers, 5 caps)19. David Ribbans (Northampton Saints, uncapped)20. Sam Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs, 14 caps)21. Jack Willis (unattached, 4 caps) 22. Jack van Poortvliet (Leicester Tigers, 3 caps)23. Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs, 48 caps)
(Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Christian Radnedge)