England vs Australia: Owen Farrell dropped for Wallabies clash as Dylan Hartley and Tom Wood return for final autumn international

George Ford has been preferred at fly-half with Billy Twelvetrees returning at inside centre ahead of the Saracens star

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Owen Farrell was today axed by England having failed to transform himself into an inside centre in one of three changes for the crucial clash with Australia at Twickenham on Saturday.

Farrell, who has been hampered by knee problems this season, made way at No10 for George Ford in the 28-9 win over Samoa and was shifted to No12 by head coach Stuart Lancaster who has now decided to recall Gloucester’s Billy Twlevetrees to the inside centre role.

It is the latest example of England’s “revolving door” selection policy in mid-field with Twelvetrees now partnering Saracens Brad Barritt for the third time in a test match.

The other two changes were expected with Northampton hooker Dylan Hartley regaining his place at the expense of Bath’s Rob Webber and Northampton flanker Tom Wood taking over from James Haskell with both players expected along with Farrell, to make significant contributions from the replacements bench.


England cannot afford to lose this match and end the Autumn series with a 1-3 record having lost to South Africa and New Zealand before finding better form to defeat Samoa.

Lancaster said: “It’s good to be able to give Billy his first start of the series. He took on board the feedback we gave him when he first came into camp and he has worked hard both with us and at Gloucester and deserves his chance.

“Owen is a key part of our squad and I am sure he will make a positive contribution should he get the chance. The Samoa game gave us the opportunity to give James Haskell and Rob Webber a start and they made a good contribution. Tom and Dylan were disappointed not to be in the XV last week and they are desperate to go out and perform on Saturday so we finish the series on a high.”

Lancaster has kept changes to a minimum believing the team is capable of finally producing the standard of rugby he has been demanding throughout a campaign shaped injuries to key players including Manu Tuilagi and Joe Launchbury.

The head coach did not opt to reunite Twelvetrees and Luther Burrell , of Northampton, who did so well for England in last season’s Six Nations, preferring to stick with Barritt, who is in charge of England’s defence. Samoa failed to crack the English line thanks to Barritt’s organisational skills which will be tested to the full by the Wallabies on Saturday.

Australia are in England’s World Cup pool – along with Wales – and a win 10 months away from the tournament will give English rugby a major lift.

Veteran back Adam Ashley-Cooper has shifted from wing to centre to replace the injured Tevita Kuridrani in one of three changes to the Wallabies.

The Wallabies, coming off three-point losses to both France and Ireland, have recalled Rob Horne on the wing  and selected Sean McMahon on the blindside flank to replace Luke Jones. The pack features lock Rob Simmons who will earn his 50th test cap.

England team to face Australia:

Mike Brown; Anthony Watson, Brad Barritt, Billy Twelvetrees, Jonny May; George Ford, Ben Youngs; Joe Marler, Dylan Hartley, David Wilson; Dave Attwood, Courtney Lawes; Tom Wood, Chris Robshaw, Ben Morgan.

Replacements: Rob Webber, Matt Mullan, Kieran Brookes, George Kruis, James Haskell, Richard Wigglesworth, Owen Farrell, Marland Yarde.