Courtney Lawes has been named as England’s captain for Saturday’s first Test against Australia in Perth, with Eddie Jones favoring the blindside flanker for the role rather than the returning Owen Farrell. Danny Care and Billy Vunipola have also been named to start while Henry Arundell is a surprise inclusion on the bench despite his apprentice status in the squad.
Farrell comes back into the side at inside-centre for a first England appearance since November, also against the Wallabies, but Jones’s decision to stick with Lawes represents a sea change. Farrell has held the role since 2018 but in his absence from him this season, Tom Curry and Lawes have both filled in and Jones has opted to stick with the latter. The last time Farrell played for England without holding the captaincy was during the 2018 Six Nations but Lawes has provided a popular leader among the squad.
Care gets the nod to start his first Test since appearing against Japan in November 2018, having featured off the bench against the Barbarians this month, while Billy Vunipola comes straight in at No 8, having made his last England appearance in the 2021 Six Nations. The 19-year-old Arundell, meanwhile, is joined on the bench by the uncapped Leicester duo Jack van Poortvliet and Guy Porter in an eye-catching set of replacements, with all three set for a first appearance.
Jonny May has been omitted from the squad having tested positive for Covid last week, with Joe Cokanasiga and Jack Nowell on the wings. Making up the backs are Marcus Smith at fly-half, Joe Marchant at outside-centre and Freddie Steward at full-back. Up front, Ellis Genge, Jamie George and Will Stuart comprise the front row, Jonny Hill joins Maro Itoje at lock and Tom Curry is at openside flanker. Luke Cowan-Dickie has been deemed fit for a place on the bench alongside Mako Vunipola, Joe Heyes, Ollie Chessum and Lewis Ludlam.
In total, Jones has opted to start with eight of the 10 squad members who toured Australia in 2016 but his chosen XV sees six changes from England’s last Test – the Six Nations defeat by France in March. “We have had very strong preparation for this game,” said Jones.
“We did some good recovery work in Fremantle and quality training in Perth. The squad has come together well since we met up last week. Picking the 23 out of this group of 36 was difficult. We feel we have a well-balanced team which is ready for this improving Australia team. We’ll take it to them from the start.”
Meanwhile, Jones has called up the uncapped Bristol forward Sam Jeffries after Charlie Ewels was ruled out of the series with a knee injury. Ewels sustained the ACL injury in training on Wednesday and will return to England for further assessment.
Jeffries is the beneficiary, capping a remarkable few years for the 29-year-old who retired from the sport in 2019. Jeffries, who can play at lock or in the back row, hung up his boots aged 26 due to persistent knee problems and Bristol became’s professional development manager but returned at the start of the season after the debilitating pain slowly disappeared.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism