Farrell to win 100th cap as Jones makes three changes for All Blacks clash

Owen Farrell will captain England on his 100 appearance for his country

England captain Owen Farrell will win his 100th cap against the All Blacks at Twickenham Stadium as head coach Eddie Jones makes three changes to the squad that beat Japan last weekend.

Farrell is very much the headline coming into this game with the All Blacks. Plenty will remember his smirk when facing the Haka in Yokohama in the Rugby World Cup and is expected to have another influential performance in a backline that also contains Jack van Poortvliet, Marcus Smith, Jonny May, Manu Tuilagi, Jack Nowell and Freddie Steward.

Under Jones, Farrell has been integral to England. Winning the majority of his caps from inside centre, the 31-year-old becomes just the third ever male England international to win 100 caps for his country and certainly has a fan in his head coach.

“Just his competitive spirit,” Jones, when asked about what Farrell brings, said. “If you look at his record, he’s the third highest points scorer in the history of the game. In the history of the game.

“100 caps won, multiple titles with his club Saracens, has won everything with England apart from the World Cup. Whatever team he plays in, he makes better. He’s a tough and uncompromising player who plays close to his best nearly every game I’ve seen him play.”

Tuilagi retakes a starting spot in place of Guy Porter, while Jack Nowell is deemed fit to start a week on from being replaced by Joe Cokanasiga just prior to the Japan kick-off. Last week in West London the attack fired like it hadn’t for a while, England scoring seven tries on the way to their 52-13 victory.

Another change sees Billy Vunipola reinstated in the back-row as part of a pack reshuffle that sees Maro Itoje move back to lock and Sam Simmonds move to blindside flanker.

It is a marked change by Jones, who a week ago ahead of the visit from Japan said, “the way the game is at the moment, you need three lineout jumpers”, but a week on and Itoje will be packing down alongside Jonny Hill.

“Ideally, we would have three jumpers, but we just feel we need that contest in the back-row for this week,” Jones said. “Maro, definitely his preferred position is lock, but he can play six.

“We’re pleased with the way [Alex] Coles is developing, but for this game we feel that’s the best balanced pack.”

In a contrast to England, New Zealand have added a third lineout jumper to their back-row. Scott Barrett is added at blindside flanker, the 28-year-old usually deployed in the second row but this weekend will play alongside Dalton Papali’i and Ardie Savea.

There is a real question as to whether or not England have changed their recipe too much, with Jones saying his squad is the best one to take on their opposition.

“It’s a bit horses for courses against New Zealand,” Jones said. “Traditionally if you look at the history of the game, New Zealand’s strength is their backrow.

“Their most talismanic players have always been their back-rows. Look at Graham Mourie, Richie McCaw and Kieran Read, before that Shelford, those sorts of guys. Zinzan Brooke. We feel that battle is going to be quite important in the game.

“Sam gives us a little bit more mobility, a little bit more contest at the breakdown, which again is going to be important.”

In the pack, the trio of Ellis Genge, Luke Cowan-Dickie and Kyle Sinckler combine yet again, while Jonny Hill and Tom Curry maintain their places in the forwards. On the bench there is a return for Bath’s Will Stuart and the unattached Jack Willis, while Jamie George, Mako Vunipola, David Ribbans, Ben Youngs, Guy Porter and Henry Slade round out the finishers.

It will be the first time that the All Blacks and England have come face to face since the World Cup semi-final. England’s 19-7 win that day was just the nation’s eighth over New Zealand ever and this weekend Ian Foster’s side are hardly the searing hot favourites of years gone by.

Squeezing past Scotland last Sunday in Edinburgh thanks to a 31-23 win, Jones fully expecting a tough encounter between the two nations early on Saturday evening.

“I think it’s always a good time to play New Zealand, but you don’t choose their team,” he said. “They’re always strong teams, committed to play to their best. They have that Kiwi spirit about them. We have a great opportunity ahead of us. 

“I’ve coaches against New Zealand since 2000, I think, and they never lack motivation and they particularly don’t against England, who we know they probably don’t like a great deal. So I’m sure they’ll be highly motivated.”

England starting XV: Freddie Steward; Jack Nowell, Manu Tuilagi, Owen Farrell (C), Jonny May; Marcus Smith, Jack van Poortvliet; Ellis Genge, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, Jonny Hill, Sam Simmonds, Tom Curry, Billy Vunipola

Replacements: Jamie George, Mako Vunipola, Will Stuart, David Ribbans, Jack Willis, Ben Youngs, Guy Porter, Henry Slade