Alec Hepburn (right) in action for Exeter Chiefs against Saracens. Photo: Henry Browne/Reuters

LONDON – England coach Eddie Jones has backed prop forward Alec Hepburn to fill the void left by the injured Mako Vunipola against South Africa in Saturday's Test at Twickenham.

Hepburn makes his first start for England, having won two caps for his country, and Jones is an admirer of the Exeter Chiefs' loosehead.

“It was a really tight decision between him and Ben Moon, but the two of them will do a great job for the 80 minutes,” said Jones. 

“Alec is a very vigorous player, good ball-carrier, great chop tackler and plays with a high workrate.”

Another Exeter Chief, Jack Nowell, returns to the side after an absence of nine months with Jones pleased to be able to welcome back the wing, who missed the summer tour through injury.

“Jack is another workrate player and has an incredible ability to find the ball and has great feet,” he added.

England head coach Eddie Jones during his press conference on Thursday. Photo: Reuters/Paul Childs
England head coach Eddie Jones during his press conference on Thursday. Photo: Reuters/Paul Childs

Mark Wilson gets the nod at number eight, although Bath backrow forward Zach Mercer could be in line for an international debut as a finisher.

“Wilson is a very good defensive player, hard on the ball, gives everything to the team and certainly against the big South African forwards his chop tackling will be very important,” explained Jones.

“Zach Mercer came in as an apprentice 18 months ago so it’s nice to see those guys realise their potential. He’s been in good form at Bath and good form in camp.”

And Jones has backed the finishers to have a huge impact on Saturday.

“We’ve lost 400 caps with the Vunipola brothers, Joe Launchbury and Courtney Lawes so that experience is hard to replace but we’ve still managed to name a very strong bench of finishers with Jamie George and Danny Care and they will lead the final charge,” he said.

“Ben Moon has done really well since he’s come into camp. He’s a solid player, good scrummager and also does the basics well.” 

African News Agency (ANA)


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