October 3, 2019 / 2:54 AM / 20 days ago

Rugby-Mako Vunipola returns on the bench for England's Argentina clash

TOKYO, Oct 3 (Reuters) - England prop Mako Vunipola will make his return from injury off the bench in Saturday’s Rugby World Cup Pool C match against Argentina after being named among the replacements by coach Eddie Jones on Thursday.

England have made a perfect start to the tournament with bonus points wins over Tonga and the United States to top the pool but now face their first tier one opposition in the Pumas.

After mixing and matching in the warm-ups and first two matches of the tournament, Jones has named his strongest side for the Tokyo Stadium clash against the twice World Cup semi-finallists.

Loosehead Vunipola had surgery after tearing his hamstring from the bone in early May and has played just 17 minutes of rugby since with a brief cameo against Ireland in which he tore the scar tissue.

England will be keen to avoid any aggravation of the injury on Saturday so Joe Marler retains the number one shirt with Vunipola likely to come on in the second half.

Other than that, England will look to bed down key combinations for the campaign ahead with their final pool match against France and, they expect, the knockout stages to come.

George Ford and captain Owen Farrell reprise the twin playmaker combination at flyhalf and inside centre respectively with Manu Tuilagi offering physicality at outside centre.

Maro Itoje and George Kruis line up in the second row together for the first time this tournament, while the back row combines the mobility of flankers Sam Underhill and Tom Curry with the power of Mako’s brother Billy Vunipola.

Ben Youngs returns at scrumhalf, while the back three of fullback Elliot Daly and wingers Anthony Watson and Jonny May will offer plenty of threat on the counter-attack if Argentina get their kicking game wrong.

Winger Jack Nowell will offer cover from the bench as he is also eased back into action after an angle ligament problem which has sidelined him since the start of June.

“We know Argentina are a very good team and our players will be ready for the game,” Jones said in a news release.

“Argentina is a completely different team from others we have played so far in the pool stages and are always about the physical contest.

“This week it’s about getting our game right, our set piece in a good place and making sure defensively we are organised and ready to find ways to score points against them.”

England: 15-Elliot Daly, 14-Anthony Watson, 13-Manu Tuilagi, 12-Owen Farrell, 11-Jonny May, 10-George Ford, 9-Ben Youngs, 8-Billy Vunipola, 7-Sam Underhill, 6-Tom Curry, 5-George Kruis, 4-Maro Itoje, 3-Kyle Sinckler, 2-Jamie George, 1-Joe Marler.

Replacements: 16-Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17-Mako Vunipola, 18-Dan Cole, 19-Courtney Lawes, 20-Lewis Ludlam, 21-Willi Heinz, 22-Henry Slade, 23-Jack Nowell. (Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

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