Jones set to restore his trusted partnership of Ford and Farrell

England head coach Eddie Jones opts to go back to his tried and trusted partnership of George Ford and Owen Farrell… as defending champions seek to revive their Six Nations title prospects against Italy on Saturday

  • George Ford set to reclaim the England No 10 shirt for this Saturday’s clash
  • Coach Eddie Jones will move captain Owen Farrell to inside centre
  • Fit-again Kyle Sinckler is set to take over from Will Stuart at tighthead prop
  • England lost their first Six Nations encounter in a shock result to Scotland 

George Ford is set to reclaim the England No 10 shirt when Eddie Jones names his side for the clash with Italy — with Owen Farrell reverting to inside centre.

Leicester fly-half Ford was demoted to the replacements’ bench for last Saturday’s Six Nations opener against Scotland at Twickenham, allowing Farrell to occupy the primary playmaker role. 

However, England slumped to a 11-6 defeat which led to widespread criticism of the captain’s performance and calls for him to be dropped.

George Ford is set to reclaim the England No 10 shirt with Owen Farrell going to inside centre

All the indications on Wednesday night were that Jones will not omit Farrell from his line-up to take on the Azzurri on Saturday at Twickenham, but he will change places in order for Ford to be reinstated alongside him. 

The close friends have formed a creative alliance for several years and it appears the head coach has opted to go back to this tried and trusted formula, as England seek to revive their title prospects.

When Ford was belatedly sent on against the Scots last weekend, too late to orchestrate a fightback by the outclassed hosts, he replaced Ollie Lawrence, rather than the misfiring Farrell. 

Against Italy, the most likely scenario is that the rookie Worcester centre will be removed from the starting side — a cruel outcome as he has had little opportunity to showcase his credentials. He received the ball just once against Scotland.

Head coach Eddie Jones is ready to restore his tried and trusted partnership for Italy clash

Aside from the change of fly-half, there will be considerable intrigue about Jones’s selection on Thursday. 

He must decide whether largely to retain the same players and trust that they will deliver a markedly improved performance or overhaul his team in an attempt to galvanise the campaign.

Elsewhere in the back line, the head coach has the option of introducing fresh, exciting talent in the shape of Bristol scrum-half Harry Randall and Paolo Odogwu of Wasps — who can operate in midfield or on the wing. At best, they are likely to earn debuts off the bench, and Max Malins is another box-office newcomer seeking more game-time.

Up front, there are more dilemmas for Jones. His leading props are both available again — Mako Vunipola after injury and Kyle Sinckler following a short ban. Sinckler is set to take over from Will Stuart at tighthead but Vunipola’s lack of recent game-time may allow Ellis Genge to retain the No 1 shirt.

Fit-again Kyle Sinckler is set to take over from Will Stuart at tighthead prop on Saturday

In the second and back rows, Maro Itoje and Tom Curry are definite starters and No 8 Billy Vunipola is normally a shoo-in too, but he is another who fell way below his usual standards against Scotland. 

Courtney Lawes could challenge Jonny Hill for a lock place while Ben Earl and Jack Willis are pushing for back-row selection.

Meanwhile, Harlequins fly-half Marcus Smith has ended the uncertainty over his future by penning a new long-term deal at the club. The 21-year-old was out of contract in the summer.

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