Cape Town – England coach Eddie Jones has beefed up his pack of forwards with two 2019 Rugby World Cup finalists for Saturday’s clash against the Springboks at Twickenham (7.30pm SA time kickoff).
Loosehead prop Mako Vunipola and hooker Jamie George have been rewarded for playing their part in a remarkable late rally from the English in last week’s Test against the All Blacks, and they replace Ellis Genge and Luke Cowan-Dickie in the match-23 announced by Jones on Thursday.
England were down and out at 25-6, but a brace by tighthead replacement Will Stuart and another five-pointer from fullback Freddie Steward, in addition to two Marcus Smith conversions, saw the hosts secure a 25-25 draw in the last 10 minutes.
It is clear that Jones is expecting an almighty physical onslaught from the Boks – who have recalled Eben Etzebeth at No 4 and have brought in powerful No 8 Evan Roos – as the England boss has added a huge physical specimen in the shape of Alex Coles at blindside flank.
With regular No 6 Courtney Lawes out injured, Jones tried the speedy Sam Simmonds there against New Zealand, but has now reverted to a more conventional blindsider in Coles, who is normally a lock for his club, Northampton Saints.
The 23-year-old stands at 2.01m and weighs 117kg, but has operated at blindside for his club this season as well. So, he will look to counter the lineout option provided by Franco Mostert for the Boks at No 7, and add some extra bite to the England loose trio alongside powerful No 8 Billy Vunipola and breakdown scavenger Tom Curry.
There is a change at right wing, where Tommy Freeman comes in for Jack Nowell, who is on the bench, while former Western Province lock David Ribbans is also among the replacements.
England have beaten the Boks on the last three occasions at Twickenham, and will hope to round off a disappointing Autumn Nations Series with another victory over Siya Kolisi’s team.
“This is our last game of the autumn and our chance to continue building on the improvements we have made throughout the matches. We have made steady progress from game-to-game, culminating in a pulsating draw against New Zealand,” Jones said on Thursday.
“Now we have the chance to test ourselves against the might of the world champions. We’re going out there to light the crowd up. The support at Twickenham was outstanding last week, and we want to work hard on the pitch to make sure we have another atmosphere like that again on Saturday.”
England team: 15 Freddie Steward 14 Tommy Freeman 13 Manu Tuilagi 12 Owen Farrell (captain) 11 Jonny May 10 Marcus Smith 9 Jack van Poortvliet 8 Billy Vunipola 7 Tom Curry 6 Alex Coles 5 Jonny Hill 4 Maro Itoje 3 Kyle Sinckler 2 Jamie George 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie 17 Ellis Genge 18 Will Stuart 19 David Ribbans 20 Sam Simmonds 21 Ben Youngs 22 Henry Slade 23 Jack Nowell.