LONDON, Nov 1 (Reuters) - England coach Eddie Jones sprung a surprise on Thursday by naming Mark Wilson at number eight for Saturday’s test against South Africa as he opted for a new-look back row combination boasting only six international starts between them.
With regular number eight Billy Vunipola injured and Nathan Hughes suspended, Jones had been expected to go for uncapped Zach Mercer, who was instead named among the replacements as tough-tackling Wilson wins his fifth cap and his second start.
Brad Shields wins his third cap at blindside with four-cap Tom Curry, impressive in the 2-1 series defeat against the Springboks, keeping the number seven shirt.
As expected, Owen Farrell will start at flyhalf, with Ben Te’o and Henry Slade outside him and George Ford on the bench.
Dylan Hartley, co-captain with Farrell, returns at hooker alongside props Alec Hepburn and Kyle Sinckler.
Elliot Daly is fullback with Jonny May and Jack Nowell claiming the wing berths as Chris Ashton failed to make the matchday squad.
Manu Tuilagi, who last played for England in 2016 and who has endured a wretched four-year run of injuries, is named on the bench along with uncapped prop Ben Moon.
After Saturday’s match England, who have lost five of their last six full tests, take on New Zealand, Japan and Australia, all at Twickenham.
England squad to play South Africa: 15 Elliot Daly (Wasps, 21 caps) 14 Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs, 26 caps) 13 Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs, 13 caps) 12 Ben Te’o (Worcester Warriors, 13 caps) 11 Jonny May (Leicester Tigers, 37 caps) 10 Owen Farrell (Saracens, 61 caps) co-captain 9 Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 77 caps)
1 Alec Hepburn (Exeter Chiefs, 2 caps) 2 Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints, 93 caps) co-captain 3 Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins, 13 caps) 4 Maro Itoje (Saracens, 22 caps) 5 George Kruis (Saracens, 25 caps) 6 Brad Shields (Wasps, 2 caps) 7 Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, 4 caps) 8 Mark Wilson (Newcastle Falcons, 4 caps) Replacements 16 Jamie George (Saracens, 28 caps) 17 Ben Moon (Exeter Chiefs, uncapped) 18 Harry Williams (Exeter Chiefs, 11 caps) 19 Charlie Ewels (Bath Rugby, 6 caps) 20 Zach Mercer (Bath Rugby, uncapped) 21 Danny Care (Harlequins, 81 caps) 22 George Ford (Leicester Tigers, 47 caps) 23 Manu Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers, 26 caps)
Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Toby Davis