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Jones plays safe in 1st England rugby game

4th February, 2016
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Eddie Jones has unveiled an experienced team for his first match as England coach, keeping his uncapped trio on the bench and going with the tried and tested to face Scotland in Edinburgh in their Six Nations opener on Saturday.

The Australian said last week that the Calcutta Cup was not a time to experiment, so it comes as no surprise that flanker Jack Clifford, centre Ollie Devoto and prop Paul Hill were named among the replacements on Thursday.

As expected, Jones has opted for George Ford at flyhalf, with Owen Farrell, also usually a 10, slotting in at inside centre. Danny Care is restored to first-choice scrumhalf.

Former captain Chris Robshaw switches to the blindside flank position, where he has been impressive for Harlequins this season. James Haskell is in at seven, and number eight Billy Vunipola completes a powerful back row.

George Kruis starts alongside Joe Launchbury in the second row, while Courtney Lawes, who has been battling to overcome a hamstring strain, is on the bench.

The starting XV boasts 512 caps, with Kruis and winger Jack Nowell the least experienced on 10 each.

New captain Dylan Hartley is the most seasoned, with 66 appearances, though this will be the hooker’s first match since last year’s Six Nations: he was left out of the World Cup squad by then-coach Stuart Lancaster for disciplinary reasons.

A lack of leaders in the team was highlighted by some observers as a weakness for England during the World Cup, where despite their home advantage they failed even to reach the knockout stage. Jones has acted to address that issue by appointing three vice-captains – Farrell, Vunipola and fullback Mike Brown – to support Hartley.

“We have picked a match-day squad with a blend of experience and youth,” Jones said in a statement as he seeks to extend England’s unbeaten run against the Scots to nine games.

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“The boys have worked hard since coming into camp to understand how I want the team to play. We have prepared well and I am pleased with the progress the group has made in the short time we’ve had together.”

England have won the Six Nations just once since 2003, and finished second in their four seasons under Lancaster.

Scotland, who finished bottom last season after losing all five games, name their team later on Thursday.

England: Mike Brown, Anthony Watson, Jonathan Joseph, Owen Farrell, Jack Nowell, George Ford, Danny Care; Billy Vunipola, James Haskell, Chris Robshaw, Joe Launchbury, George Kruis, Dan Cole, Dylan Hartley (capt), Joe Marler. Res: Jamie George, Mako Vunipola, Paul Hill, Courtney Lawes, Jack Clifford, Ben Youngs, Alex Goode, Ollie Devoto.

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