England vs Samoa: Sam Simmonds and Jamie George make first starts as Dylan Hartley benched and Owen Farrell rested

George Ford and Chris Robshaw share the captaincy as Eddie Jones makes nine changes

Chris Robshaw will co-captain England against Samoa this weekend, two years after being removed by Eddie Jones as the national team’s skipper, after Dylan Hartley was left out the starting line-up for the first time since November 2014.

Hartley’s absence not only means that Jones has had to appoint a new captain, but also that Jamie George will make his first start for England after 20 consecutive appearances as a replacement. No other player in world rugby has won so many Test caps without a start, but on Saturday he will join No 8 Sam Simmonds in winning his first.

With Hartley among the replacements, Robshaw and Ford will share the captaincy duties, with the former responsible for the forwards and defence, and the latter leading the backs and the attack. While it is not the first time two pair have shared the role – having done do against the Barbarians before this summer’s tour of Argentina – it still caps a remarkable turnaround for Robshaw, who has been a mainstay in Jones’ side despite being told two years ago that he was no longer the skipper nor was he the openside flanker.

Just to emphasise that, Robshaw will start in the No 7 shirt due to the injury-enforced absences of Sam Underhill and Tom Currie, but Jones does not expect him to go about his ways any differently to what he has done over the last 24 months.

“Robbo [Robshaw] will play the way he plays every week and that’s absolutely selfless for the team,” Jones said.

“He’ll do his tackles, go for the ball, get back up after the Samoans make a line break and he’ll just keep working. There’ll be no changes despite the number on his back.”

Robshaw echoed what the Australian preached, and while from the outside looking in the return to captaincy – albeit in a shared capacity – is a remarkable achievement, the Harlequins flanker will not see it that way.

“‘I don’t read too much into it,” Robshaw said. “Whether it’s six or seven, I just go out and do my best for the team.

“I’m looking forward to it. There’s a lot of changes and a lot of opportunities for guys who have trained extremely hard especially over the last few weeks. They’ve brought that freshness and excitement and they can’t wait to get out there.”

Jones makes nine changes to the starting line-up that defeat Australia 30-6 last weekend, but most eyes will be on George and Simmonds as they make their first starts for their country. Having started every match of the Jones era, Hartley finds himself among the replacements this weekend, although part of that is also due to the head coach managing his captain’s work load.

“We’ve just finished two tough games,” Jones explained. “Dylan did a conditioning programme this week. He hasn’t been training with the team along with the few of the others players including Mako [Vunipola].

“So it’s a good opportunity for Jamie this week. He’s a good lad. He’s sat on the bench behind Dylan. He’s now got his opportunity to start. Dylan’s been very supportive of him as Jamie’s been supportive of Dylan when he’s started.”

Hartley added: “We’ve all got a role to play, whether it’s a starter or finisher and like Eddie said, he’s [George] supported through the last 20-odd games. I’ve got a role to do this week and that’s supporting him and coming off the bench and finishing the game.

Jamie George will make his first start for England

Turning his attentions to Simmonds, who replaces the injured Nathan Hughes and joins Robshaw and Maro Itoje in a new-look back-row, Jones added: “It’s more of the balance of the back-row. We’ve got a pretty big No 6 and a big No 7 so can afford to have a smaller No 8.

“He’s applied himself well. He’s a quiet boy, doesn’t say much and works hard. A really impressive attitude.”

The rest of the forwards pack sees Ellis Genge joining George in the front-row as he replaces the rested Vunipola, while Dan Cole retains his place at tighthead prop ahead of Harry Williams. Charlie Ewels comes into the second-row to join the in-form Joe Launchbury, with young Saracens lock Nick Isiekwe named among the replacements to return to the side after impressing on the tour of Argentina last summer.

After setting up two tries and scoring the fourth himself in last weekend’s 30-6 victory over Australia, Danny Care is handed a rare start at scrum-half ahead of Ben Youngs, while the midfield displays a huge level of creativity as Ford will have Saracens’ Alex Lozowski and Exeter’s Henry Slade outside him in the centres.

Jones said of his centre pairing: “We want to see good skills and good decision making and robustness in their play. They'll be playing against big Samoan centres who like to take the ball forward and have all got good footwork. They'll need to knuckle down and make their tackle and when we get the ball they'll have to make good decisions.

Henry Slade returns to the starting line-up at outside centre

“I want them to play good rugby and that means finding space. Good players make good decisions.”

The wings remain unchanged as both Elliot Daly and Jonny May retain their places after scoring against the Wallabies, while Mike Brown returns at full-back after recovering from concussion suffered in the 21-8 win over Argentina two weeks’ ago, with Anthony Watson sent back to Bath for the weekend. Piers Francis and Semesa Rokoduguni make up the replacements’ bench as cover for the back line.

“It's a great opportunity for the squad to show how strong we are,” Jones said. “At the end of the day, the World Cup isn't going to be won by 23 players. The World Cup will be won by a squad of 31 players. The ability of a squad to adjust and adapt while putting in cohesive performances is going to be so important.

“We're allowing players who haven't had a lot of game time to get game time. We want to increase the depth of the squad.”

England team vs Samoa

Mike Brown; Jonny May, Henry Slade, Alex Lozowski, Elliot Daly; George Ford, Danny Care; Ellis Genge, Jamie George, Dan Cole; Joe Launchbury, Charlie Ewels; Maro itoje, Chris Robshaw, Sam Simmonds.

Replacements: Dylan Hartley, Joe Marler, Harry Williams, Nick Isiekwe, Courtney Lawes, Ben Youngs, Piers Francis, Semesa Rokoduguni.

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