February 9, 2017 / 11:32 AM / 6 months ago

England take back-row risk against experienced Wales

Britain Rugby Union - England Training - Pennyhill Park, Bagshot, Surrey - 7/2/17 England head coach Eddie Jones during training Action Images via Reuters / Henry Browne Livepic

LONDON (Reuters) - England will field one of their most callow-ever back-row combinations against a vastly experienced Welsh trio in their second Six Nations match in Cardiff on Saturday.

England coach Eddie Jones announced two changes to the team who beat France in their opener, with Jack Nowell in for Jonny May on the right wing and Jack Clifford at openside flanker for Tom Wood, who is named among the replacements.

Clifford, who was not involved against France, has seven caps but his only international start came in last May's game against the Welsh.

Blindside Maro Itoje, usually a lock, started in the back row for the first time last week, while number eight Nathan Hughes, winning his fifth cap, will make his third start.

Taulupe Faletau was named as a replacement by Wales coach Rob Howley and will complete an all-British and Irish Lions back row alongside Sam Warburton and Justin Tipuric, boasting more than 180 caps between them, if he joins the fray in place of 13-cap Ross Moriarty who starts at number eight.

The showdown will be a huge test for England's back row after their struggles against a powerful French unit last week.

"Jack Clifford deserves his starting role. He is a hard-working, young player. He has got a good record against Wales, he had a superb game against them in May and we’re looking forward to him making an impact to our back-row play," Jones said.

"He'll give us a little bit more pace in the back row, Nathan has been playing well for us and Tom Wood will also play his part later in the game off the bench."

England's replacements, or "finishers" as Jones now terms them, made a huge impact against France, and one of them, Nowell, gets his chance from the start this week.

"Jack gives us a bit more workrate," Jones said. "Wales like to have a high ball-in-play, they’re not a side you get around because of the way they defend and Jack’s great attribute is to carry through and I feel his running skills this week will suit us better than Jonny."

England won in Cardiff two years ago but some players will still bear the scars of 2013 when they travelled seeking a grand slam but were hammered 30-3.

"There are always shadows in the corners that can come out," Jones said of that match when Stuart Lancaster's side wilted in an incredible atmosphere.

"A team goes through life-changing experiences and you never want to go back there. You don’t like that feeling and you learn to control those emotions.

"We have prepared for any shenanigans that might go on.The Welsh are a cunning lot, they've got goats, they've got daffodils - we're preparing for anything."

England team to play Wales (1650 GMT):

15-Mike Brown, 14-Jack Nowell, 13-Jonathan Joseph, 12-Owen Farrell, 11-Elliot Daly, 10-George Ford, 9-Ben Youngs; 8-Nathan Hughes, 7-Jack Clifford, 6-Maro Itoje, 5-Courtney Lawes, 4-Joe Launchbury, 3-Dan Cole, 2-Dylan Hartley (captain), 1-Joe Marler.

Replacements: 16-Jamie George, 17-Matt Mullan, 18-Kyle Sinckler 19-Tom Wood, 20-James Haskell, 21-Danny Care, 22-Ben Te'o, 23-Jonny May.

Editing by Ed Osmond and Hugh Lawson

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