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By Adam Ellis
Ben Te’o has been included among Eddie Jones’ starters to play Italy in Rome in England’s opening match of the Six Nations.
The Worcester centre has ousted Jonathan Joseph in selection and will don the 12 jersey having missed all of the autumn internationals with a high ankle sprain.
Furthermore, the injury has seen the British & Irish Lion not feature at all in club colours since October but Eddie Jones has elected to be bolshie and drop Joseph to the bench.
Harlequins duo Mike Brown (vision issues) and Chris Robshaw (back) were noted as ‘borderline’ to be available but both are handed a start, with Brown slotting in at his traditional full-back role and Robshaw at openside flanker.
In the second row, Joe Launchbury and Maro Itoje are chosen to contest the lineout meaning Courtney Lawes is shifted to the blindside flank.
With Billy Vunipola ruled out of the tournament and Nathan Hughes set to miss the first three rounds much interest has been shone on who start at number 8. Sam Simmonds will fill the void as the only Exeter Chief in the starting XV.
The constant tug-of-war for a starting place among Ben Youngs and Danny Care has seen the Leicester Tiger named at scrum-half to earn his 74th cap, while the Quin takes a place among the replacements and will win his 78th should he play.
Looking ahead to the match, England head coach Eddie Jones said:
“I have selected the strongest available side to play Italy this weekend and the players are excited to play in Rome,” Jones said.
“Our preparation over the last two weeks has been excellent and the players feel refreshed. We want to start the tournament well and are ready to go hunting against Italy.
“We know we need to get our set-piece right, be defensively strong and play with aggression and plenty of energy.”
15 Mike Brown, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Ben Te’o, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Jonny May, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs; 1 Mako Vunipola, 2 Dylan Hartley (Capt), 3 Dan Cole, 4 Joe Launchbury, 5 Maro Itoje, 6 Courtney Lawes, 7 Chris Robshaw, 8 Sam Simmonds
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Harry Williams, 19 George Kruis, 20 Sam Underhill, 21 Danny Care, 22 Jonathan Joseph, 23 Jack Nowell
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