England coach Eddie Jones has confirmed the matchday squad for the Autumn Nations Series opener against Tonga to be played at Twickenham Stadium on Saturday.
The team announcement was delayed after a staff member of the red rose team was tested positive for Covid-19 but all other members of the camp have returned negative lateral flow tests, with PCR test results due on Friday morning.
Skipper Owen Farrell starts at fly-half with Manu Tuilagi making his first England appearance since March 2020 donning the number 12 jersey forming midfield partnership with Henry Slade. Marcus Smith has overcome a leg injury to be part of the bench that also has Joe Marler, Will Stuart, Charlie Ewels and George Furbank along with Alex Mitchell, who could make his England debut.
Adam Radwan on his second England appearance is positioned at right wing with Jonny May at left while Freddie Steward is picked at full-back.
Jamie George has been the preferred hooker forming front row partnership with props Kyle Sinckler and Ellis Genge while Jonny Hill joins Maro Itoje in second row. Sam Underhill will be openside flanker with Courtney Lawes at blindside while Tom Curry is slotted at number eight.
“We’ve had two good preparation camps in Jersey and Pennyhill Park, worked really hard and we’re ready for a tough, physical game,” said Jones.
“We respect Tonga greatly and we know that with props like Siegfried Fisi’ihoi and Ben Tameifuna, we are going to have to go in the front door before the back door.
“We’re especially looking forward to getting back out in front of a full crowd at Twickenham and playing some entertaining, exciting rugby for all of the supporters, we can’t wait to have them back.”
England: 15 Freddie Steward, 14 Adam Radwan, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Manu Tuilagi, 11 Jonny May, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Tom Curry, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 Jonny Hill, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Jamie George, 1 Ellis Genge
Reserves: 16 Jamie Blamire, 17 Joe Marler, 18 Will Stuart, 19 Charlie Ewels, 20 Alex Dombrandt, 21 Alex Mitchell, 22 Marcus Smith, 23 George Furbank