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England change George Ford’s role for Australia showdown

England coach Eddie Jones and captain Owen Farrell

England have dropped vice-captain George Ford for their World Cup quarter-final match against Australia on Saturday, with Owen Farrell preferred to start at fly-half.

Ford has started every game in Japan under head coach Eddie Jones, but he has opted for a beefed-up centre duo of Manu Tuilagi and Henry Slade for the clash in Oita.

Wallabies inside centre Samu Kerevi has been one of the form players for both club and country in recent years and has been highlighted as a threat to England’s hopes of keeping things tight in defence.

A pre-conception of a weakness in Ford’s defence means Jones will bring Slade into play, despite Ford recording no missed tackles so far at the World Cup.

Pressure will now be laid firmly on the shoulders of Henry Slade, who has not played more than 40 minutes in six months following a major knee injury.

Discussing his selection, Jones said: “Australia defend a certain way – we believe these three players can trouble their defence, and defensively we feel like it’s a pretty strong 10-12-13 combination,” said Jones.

“We know Australia are a high possession team, they are a high phase team and that’s how they want to play.

“And so there’s going to be a lot of defending in that area, and we think those three guys are well equipped to handle it.”

England v Australia, Saturday, Oita, 8.15am kick-off

England: 15 Elliot Daly, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Manu Tuilagi, 11 Jonny May, 10 Owen Farrell (capt), 9 Ben Youngs; 1 Mako Vunipola, 2 Jamie George, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 4 Maro Itoje, 5 Courtney Lawes, 6 Tom Curry, 7 Sam Underhill, 8 Billy Vunipola

Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Joe Marler, 18 Dan Cole, 19 George Kruis, 20 Lewis Ludlam, 21 Willi Heinz, 22 George Ford, 23 Jonathan Joseph

Australia: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Reece Hodge, 13 Jordan Petaia, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Christian Lealiifano, 9 Will Genia; 1 Scott Sio, 2 Tolu Latu, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 4 Izack Rodda, 5 Rory Arnold, 6 David Pocock, 7 Michael Hooper (capt), 8 Isi Naisarani

Replacements: 16 Jordan Uelese, 17 James Slipper, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Adam Coleman, 20 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 21 Nic White, 22 Matt To’omua, 23 James O’Connor

Jonny May will win his 50th cap six years on from making his debut in Buenos Aires.

The Leicester wing is joined in the back three by Anthony Watson and Elliot Daly, as Jack Nowell misses out with a hamstring niggle.

In the pack, both Mako and Billy Vunipola have been cleared to start, while George Kruis is dropped to the bench with Ford in place of Courtney Lawes.

Australia have also made a surprise call by including highly-rated 19-year-old Jordan Petaia in their starting line-up.

The teen will win his third Test cap to partner Queensland Reds teammate Kerevi in midfield.

Coach Michael Cheika has had to play the waiting game to see if Kurtley Beale would pass concussion protocols, but the experienced full-back has been cleared to start opposite former club teammate Daly.

“I’m just a believer. Call me a sucker. I believe in my lads,” said coach Michael Cheika on Monday.

“I know there are other people who won’t give us much of a chance but I believe that when you believe in yourself you are much closer to being able to create history.”

The last meeting between England and Australia at Twickenham last November saw Jones’ side win 37-18.

While the Wallabies have four starters from the same side which embarrassed England 33-13 to send them out of their home World Cup four years ago.

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