Warren Gatland’s third Six Nations Grand Slam with Wales at the weekend only served to fuel speculation about his future after the World Cup with the New Zealander now boasting a coaching CV that makes him a serious contender for the All Blacks job.
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England coach Eddie Jones has handed wing Chris Ashton his first test start for four years to face New Zealand at Twickenham on Saturday.
Wing Chris Ashton will make his first England start for four years as one of three changes for Saturday’s showdown with New Zealand at Twickenham.
Ashton lines-up on the right wing in place of Jack Nowell after impressing during his 15-minute spell as a substitute in the 12-11 victory over South Africa that opened the November internationals.
The 31-year-old has amassed 40 caps in an international career interrupted by suspension, falling out of favour with successive England coaches and a season-long spell in France with Toulon.
Nowell drops to the bench but there is no place for centre Manu Tuilagi despite his recovery from the groin strain that ruled him out against the Springboks.
The two other changes see Ben Moon come in for Alec Hepburn at loosehead prop and Sam Underhill replaces Tom Curry, who has been ruled out of the remainder of the autumn by an ankle injury.
Lock Courtney Lawes returns to the bench after overcoming a lower back problem, forcing Zach Mercer out of the matchday 23.
Owen Farrell co-captains the team alongside Dylan Hartley and needs only one more point to reach 700 for England.
England face the All Blacks for the first time in four years and have been installed as heavy underdogs against the world champions.
“The expectation for Saturday is no different to any other Test match,” former Wallabies coach Eddie Jones said.
“We want to be at our best, better than we were in the previous Test match and we want to play with pride and passion which ignites the fan.”
Australian Jones added: “It’s been a good week, the players have recovered well, trained well on Tuesday, exceptionally well on Wednesday and we look forward to the challenge of taking on New Zealand on Saturday.”