England have brought in Jonathan Joseph for Ben Te’o in one of two changes for Saturday’s Six Nations clash with Wales.
Joseph starts at outside centre after making an impact off the bench in last weekend’s 46-15 victory over Italy in Rome, with Te’o demoted to a replacement role for the round-two match at Twickenham.
The second change sees Danny Care become England’s most capped scrum-half, edging past the milestone of 77 held by Matt Dawson, after he was chosen to replace knee-injury victim Ben Youngs in the number nine jersey.
Richard Wigglesworth has been drafted straight on to the bench, having been called up as cover after Eddie Jones’ first choice in the position ruptured his medial collateral ligament at the Stadio Olimpico.
“Danny Care very much deserves the honour of being the most capped England scrum-half and I am sure he’ll make the most of his opportunity on Saturday,” Jones said.
“We want to make sure our set-piece is dominant, our defence is ferocious and that we are at our best against Wales.”
The selection of Joseph over Te’o was predicted by Wales coach Warren Gatland earlier this week and sees England restored to their strongest available starting XV.
Te’o impressed with his powerful carrying against Italy but faded in his first appearance since recovering from ankle surgery in mid-June and Jones has opted for the greater experience and slick footwork of Joseph in his place.
Apart from the presence of Te’o and Wigglesworth, the bench remains unchanged.
Gregor Townsend has responded to last weekend’s thrashing at the hands of Wales by making six changes to his Scotland line-up ahead of facing France on Sunday.
The Dark Blues had hopes of making a NatWest 6 Nations title bid this season but got off a dismal start with a 34-7 defeat in Cardiff.
Now Townsend hopes he will get a response after recalling former skipper Greig Laidlaw at scrum-half as well as centre Peter Horne, wing Sean Maitland, prop Simon Berghan, lock Grant Gilchrist and number eight Ryan Wilson.
Ali Price – whose intercepted pass handed Gareth Davies the crucial opening score at the Principality Stadium – makes way for Laidlaw as he is joined on the bench by last week’s starters Jon Welsh, Ben Toolis and
Chris Harris. Cornell du Preez and the injured Byron McGuigan drop out of the 23-man squad.
Townsend said: “As a group we’re delighted to be playing at home in front of another sell-out crowd at BT Murrayfield and are looking forward to putting in a performance that can energise our supporters.
“To do that we need to out-work the opposition and be more accurate in a number of aspects of our play.
“We’ve seen a response from the players in training this week and that needs to continue into and through the 80-plus minutes of the match because France will pose a massive and immensely-physical challenge.”
Last weekend the Six Nations got off to a flier with a round of matches full of incident and talking points.
As we enter week two, France and Scotland will be hoping to get off the mark, Ireland will want a more convincing performance against Italy, and England v Wales could be a blockbuster.
Here are the key battles ahead of the fixtures.
IRELAND V ITALY
On the face of things this should be damage limitation for Italy, with Ireland far too strong for them despite not exactly impressing in France next week.
The only real hope Italy have is in trying to suppress Ireland’s superb territorial game. This will demand an intense shift from the forwards limiting the amount of clean ball for Conor Murray, and ultimately Jonny Sexton.
When the ball does come out, the Italians’ defence needs to be on point. The rush needs to be in place to limit time on the ball, with an umbrella defence in place to try and stop the ball going out wide and the game becoming stretched.
A tall order for 80 minutes.
ENGLAND V WALES
It would be easy to point towards the two back rows in this one as that will be a battle of prodigious proportion. However, it is the clashes out wide that are likely to make or break things.
Anthony Watson and Jonny May versus Steff Evans and Josh Adams is one to make the mouth water to say the least. A brace from Watson in Rome and the evasive, languid running style of May helped England to a comfortable win against the Italians, and they will be a constant threat.
Watson is a superb all round athlete with stunning finishing power, while May has a genuine x-factor about him.
Evans and Adams may not have the caps of Watson and May, but they are the talk of the town in Wales. Evans has been lighting up the wings for Scarlets for the last couple of seasons and now, given his break, is showing the potential to do it on the international stage – his work-rate against Scotland was incredible, capped off by a picture-book try.
Adams may not have hit the same heights in Cardiff but is the top scorer in the Premiership and showed glimpses of the pace and power that has got him to that level. We know they can all attack, but it may just come down to those who can defend better on the day.
SCOTLAND V FRANCE
On the back of disappointing losses for very different reasons, both sides will be looking to get their campaigns on track at Murrayfield.
Set-piece is going to be critical to securing clean ball, and this is particularly true at scrum time.
Scotland’s injury woes when it comes to props has been well documented, but in Cardiff it was not until late that Wales were able to really assert domination, which will have been heartening for Gregor Townsend on an otherwise grim day.
Facing them on Sunday is a tight-head that can be considered to be one of the best around in Rabah Slimani. If he can turn the screw in the scrum then it could be a very long afternoon for the Scots.