England recall fly-half George Ford as Owen Farrell moves to centre against Italy
LONDON - England have recalled George Ford at fly-half for Saturday's Six Nations clash against Italy at Twickenham, with captain Owen Farrell moving to inside centre.
Leicester outside-half Ford was on the bench for last weekend's shock home loss to Scotland, with Farrell starting at No 10 instead.
But the Saracens star was widely criticised for his performance as reigning champions England opened their Six Nations title defence with a lacklustre 11-6 Calcutta Cup defeat.
By the time Ford replaced centre Ollie Lawrence, it was too late for England to turn the tide.
Farrell's performance led some pundits to suggest coach Eddie Jones should drop his skipper, but instead he has reverted to a familiar 10-12 combination by including the 73-times capped Ford in his starting line-up.
The unlucky Lawrence was dropped entirely from the matchday 23, despite having to wait until the 63rd minute to make his first carry against the Scots.
Ford's return in place of Lawrence was the only personnel change in England's back division, but Jones has made several alterations to his pack.
The veteran Australian coach opted for a brand new front row that sees props Kyle Sinckler and Mako Vunipola return from suspension and injury respectively in place of the benched Will Stuart and Ellis Genge.
Meanwhile, Luke Cowan-Dickie starts at hooker in place of Jamie George, who has been unexpectedly demoted to a replacement berth.
Meanwhile, Courtney Lawes has been preferred at blindside flanker to Mark Wilson, with Jone standing by a second row of Maro Itoje and Jonny Hill.
"As always, we've picked what we think is our strongest 23 to try and win the game," said Jones, who has opted for a six-two split between forwards and backs on his bench, in a Rugby Football Union statement.
"We're pleased to have Mako and Kyle back into the team and we've made some changes to our starting XV, but our finishers are just as important to our game plan. We look at the whole 80 minutes.
"We've trained very well this week, I've been very pleased with the players' attitudes and work-rate."
England have never lost to Italy, who suffered their 28th successive Six Nations defeat against all opponents when they were hammered 50-10 by France in Rome last week.
England team to play Italy at Twickenham on Saturday (1415 GMT):
Elliot Daly, Anthony Watson, Henry Slade, Owen Farrell (capt), Jonny May; George Ford, Ben Youngs; Billy Vunipola, Tom Curry, Courtney Lawes; Jonny Hill, Maro Itoje; Kyle Sinckler, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Mako Vunipola
Replacements: Jamie George, Ellis Genge, Will Stuart, Charlie Ewels, Ben Earl, Jack Willis, Dan Robson, Max Malins
Coach: Eddie Jones (AUS)