England add grunt up front for South Africa Test and Freeman returns
Eddie Jones has handed a start to Tommy Freeman and beefed up his pack for Saturday’s clash with South Africa at Twickenham, selecting Mako Vunipola and Jamie George. Jones has also handed Alex Coles a second start and dropped both his vice-captains as England seek a second win of the autumn campaign.
Freeman comes in for Nowell on the right wing while Vunipola replaces Ellis Genge at loosehead prop and George gets the nod in place of Luke Cowan-Dickie. Coles comes into the back-row at blindside flanker for Sam Simmonds, preferred to his Northampton club-mate David Ribbans. Jones has also kept faith with Jack van Poortvliet at scrum-half despite his obvious struggles against New Zealand.
Freeman, 21, makes a first appearance of the autumn, having impressed when winning his first two caps against Australia over the summer. Nowell drops to the bench, having struggled against the All Blacks. Vunipola and George both impressed against New Zealand from the bench last week – the latter’s inclusion coming despite his admission this week that his broken foot has still not properly healed. Ribbans can consider himself unlucky to miss out to Coles given his impact off the bench against New Zealand.
Elsewhere, Manu Tuilagi wins his 50th cap at outside-centre, with Jones resisting the temptation to start Henry Slade – another who caught the eye against the All Blacks. Marcus Smith and Owen Farrell continue their 10-12 partnership while Jones keeps faith with Jonny May as well as Freddie Steward and Van Poortvliet, another pair of 21-year-olds.
Up front, Kyle Sinckler, Jonny Hill, Maro Itoje, Tom Curry and Billy Vunipola all keep their places. Cowan-Dickie, Genge and Will Stuart – who scored two tries in the dramatic comeback against New Zealand – provide front-row cover as replacements. Ribbans, Simmonds, Ben Youngs, Slade and Nowell are also on the bench.
“This is our last game of the autumn and our chance to continue building on the improvements we have made throughout the matches,” said Jones. “We have made steady progress from game-to-game, culminating in a pulsating draw against New Zealand.
“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.”