England vs New Zealand: George Ford recalled as fly-half starts alongside Owen Farrell with Henry Slade dropped

Jones returns to the Ford-Farrell axis in midfield but chooses against strengthening England’s lineout options in what is an aggressive move against the All Blacks

Jack de Menezes
Thursday 24 October 2019 08:43
Eddie Jones reveals England were spied on in training

George Ford will start Saturday’s Rugby World Cup semi-final against New Zealand alongside Owen Farrell after the pair were reunited by Eddie Jones in the England midfield.

Jones makes one change to the starting line-up that defeated Australia last weekend 40-16 to reach the last four at a World Cup for the first time in 12 years, with Ford returning at fly-half and Farrell moving back to inside centre. With Manu Tuilagi shifting to outside centre, Henry Slade drops out of the starting XV.

The England head coach has decided against changing his pack though, despite the threat of the All Blacks’ reinforced lineout after Steve Hansen named an additional lock in the back row in the form of Scott Barrett. It means that Courtney Lawes continues in the second row with Maro Itoje, with George Kruis on the bench.

There is one more change to the matchday squad as Mark Wilson makes his first appearance since the pool-stage victory over the United States, beating Lewis Ludlam to a place among the replacements.

“Preparation has been good this week after a solid win against Australia,” Jones said. “When you get to this stage of the World Cup it is all about focusing on being in the moment and getting yourself physically right.

“The squad has approached the game well with real maturity. It has helped having players here who have been on the Lions tour and played against New Zealand. They have been involved in some of the biggest games in world rugby so this semi-final won’t faze them.

“New Zealand are a great team, they have an impressive winning record since the last Rugby World Cup. Like any good team, you have to take away time and space from them and you have to find areas you can pressure them. We believe we have identified a number of areas where we can do that.”

Mako Vunipola will continue at loosehead prop in an unchanged front row with Jamie George and Kyle Sinckler, with Itoje and Lawes providing the muscle behind them. Tom Curry continues in his new blindside flanker role with Sam Underhill at openside, and they’re joined in the back row by No 8 Billy Vunipola, who will win his 50th cap on Saturday.

“It is a great achievement for Billy to reach 50 Test matches for England and something that is very special for the team,” Jones added. “I know his family will be very proud of him and even more so to play the game alongside his brother Mako.”

Ben Youngs continues at scrum-half with Ford, Farrell and Tuilagi outside him, and the back three is unchanged with Jonny May coming through a fitness test to retain his place on the left wing, with Anthony Watson in the No 14 shirt and Elliot Daly at full-back.

George Ford is back in England’s starting XV

Jack Nowell misses out on a place in the squad despite returning to full training, with Jonathan Joseph joining Slade and Willi Heinz as backs cover – the latter overcoming a niggling injury this week to feature. Wilson meanwhile covers the back row, with Luke Cowan-Dickie, Joe Marler, Dan Cole and Kruis all retained from the Wallabies victory.


England: Elliot Daly; Anthony Watson, Manu Tuilagi, Owen Farrell, Jonny May; George Ford, Ben Youngs; Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler; Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes; Tom Curry, Sam Underhill, Billy Vunipola.

Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Joe Marler, Dan Cole, George Kruis, Mark Wilson, Willi Heinz, Henry Slade, Jonathan Joseph.

New Zealand: Beauden Barrett; Sevu Reece, Jack Goodhue, Anton Lienert-Brown, George Bridge; Richie Mo'unga, Aaron Smith; Joe Moody, Codie Taylor, Nepo Laulala; Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock; Scott Barrett, Ardie Savea, Kieran Read.

Replacements: Dane Coles, Ofa Tuungafasi, Angus Ta'avao, Patrick Tuipulotu, Sam Cane, TJ Perenara, Sonny Bill Williams, Jordie Barrett.

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