BAGSHOT – Jack Nowell and Ben Moon will both start for England in their potentially title-deciding Six Nations clash against Wales.
Nowell replaced Chris Ashton after his fellow wing was sidelined with a calf injury in the only backline change to the run-on XV that thrashed France 44-8 at Twickenham last time out.
The only other alteration was up front, with loosehead prop Moon starting in place of the injured Mako Vunipola.
Saturday’s match in Cardiff could well decide the destiny of the title, with England and Wales the only unbeaten sides left in this season’s Six Nations after the opening two rounds.
Powerful Bath wing Joe Cokanasiga and back-row forward Brad Shields (Wasps) are included in the match day 23 for the first time this tournament with Ellis Genge and Harry Williams also on the bench.
“Ben Moon will start and Ellis Genge will finish so we will get a great 80 minutes out of those two,” said England coach Eddie Jones after announcing his side on Thursday.
“It is disappointing to lose a player of the calibre of Mako Vunipola but we have two very good players who will do a great job for us.”
The Australian added: “Jack Nowell will start and Joe Cokanasiga will come onto the bench. As we saw in the autumn Joe is a player of great potential so we are looking forward to him adding to the squad.
“Brad Shields comes in for Nathan Hughes as a finisher as we just feel like it is going to be a high work-rate game.”
“England and Wales is always a big game,” insisted Jones. “Intense rivals and there is the historical context to it, but for us it is our most important game because it is our next game and that is how we are treating it.”
Wales were last crowned Six Nations champions in 2013, when they thrashed England 30-3 on the final day of the tournament that season.
England meanwhile are bidding for a third Six Nations title under Jones, who has won all four of his matches against Wales since taking over as Red Rose boss after the 2015 World Cup.
Wales are on an 11-match unbeaten run, with just one more win required to break their all-time record set from 1907-1910 and Jones said: “As you have read in the media, it’s all about Wales, we are playing potentially the greatest team ever. Their players are full of emotion and it’s the biggest game they are going to play in their lives.”
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But while some may have detected a slightly sarcastic tone in that section of a Rugby Football Union statement, there was no doubting Jones’ admiration for Wales coach Warren Gatland.
“Whenever you play against a Warren Gatland side you are playing against a side that is going to be very physical on the gain line,” said Jones of the New Zealander.
“They are always very fit so you have to make sure you win the gain line and then find opportunities of where you are going to attack them.”
Gatland, in his final Six Nations as Wales coach before standing down after this year’s World Cup in Japan, is due to announce his side later Thursday.
The England team (15-1) is:
Elliot Daly; Jack Nowell, Henry Slade, Manu Tuilagi, Jonny May; Owen Farrell (capt), Ben Youngs; Billy Vunipola, Tom Curry, Mark Wilson; George Kruis, Courtney Lawes; Kyle Sinckler, Jamie George, Ben Moon
Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Ellis Genge, Harry Williams, Joe Launchbury, Brad Shields, Dan Robson, George Ford, Joe Cokanasiga
Coach: Eddie Jones (AUS)
Agence France-Presse (AFP)