By Ali Stokes
England head coach Eddie Jones has made a few surprise calls ahead of the national side's home fixture against the Springboks this weekend, in which the Australian coach's charges will be looking to back up their Cape Town victory four months ago with success at Twickenham on Saturday.
The more surprising of Jones' selections includes that of Newcastle Falcons' flanker Mark Wilson at number eight in place of fan favourite Bath backrower Zach Mercer. Usually a blindside, the Falcons man has filled in at the back of the scrum for his Premiership side so far this season, registering four tries in six league games.
The selection of recently returned to fitness centre Ben Te'o is another that may have raised a few eyebrows this morning, with the British and Irish Lions tourist and former Rugby League international playing a meagre 30 minutes of rugby so far this season after returning from injury two weeks ago.
Te'o is joined in the centres by Exeter Chiefs' Henry Slade, while talismanic co-captain Owen Farrell reverts to his original position of fly-half, having last donned the number ten jersey against Ireland during the final round of the 2018 Six Nations. In-form Leicester Tigers fly-half George Ford returns to the bench, having been dropped from the 23 altogether in Cape town over the summer.
In the second row, Maro Itoje is reunited with Saracens teammate George Kruis after the latter of the Lions pairing fell out of favour last season.
Bulldozing Tigers centre and iconic Test star Manu Tuilagi will look to make his return to the international game after years plagues by injury, and is set to make his first appearance for two years should he arrive from the bench this weekend.
Loosehead prop Alec Hepburn will start his first Test match, adding to his current two-cap tally. Meanwhile, Hepburn's clubmate Ben Moon will look to make his international debut from the bench, joined in Jones famed 'finishers' category by a third Chiefs prop, Harry Williams.
South Africa are expected to name their side at 2pm today (Thursday) ahead of the Quilter International clash, with had coach Rassie Erasmus stripped of star names and Premiership players Faf de Klerk and Willie le Roux.
Addressing England's preparations ahead of the weekend, Jones said: “We’ve become very well organised in our set piece and have done a lot of good work in Portugal over the last week. We have put in a new defence system and our attack looks more organised than it was on the South Africa tour.”
On taking on South Africa Jones said: “Against South Africa you have got the physical battle up front and then you have to be tactically smart in how you attack against them. We need to find ways to gain momentum, then once we find momentum, convert that to points.
“We are really excited to be back at Twickenham Stadium. It’s been a long time and we can’t wait to play in front of 82,000 fans.”
England will be aiming to make up for a series defeat in South Africa in June, where Rassie Earasmus's Springboks comfortably won the first of the two fixtures to tie up the series win before losing to an England side spearheaded by Gloucester fly-half Danny Cipriani in a rain sodden Newlands Stadium.
Earlier today, England learned that they would be without Saracens centre Alex Lozowski for next weekend's match against the all Blacks. Lozowski, 25, was handed a four-week ban for a dangerous tackle on Glasgow Warriors fullback and former Wasps teammate Ruaidhri Jackson.
Lozowski's ban was backdated by two weeks, with the former Yorkshire Carnegie and Watford Grammar School graduate having already served two-weeks away from the game following a since dismissed suspension for a dangerous tackle in European clash with the Warriors.
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