LONDON (Reuters) - David Pocock will start at number eight for Australia against England at Twickenham on Saturday after overcoming a neck injury that had made him a doubt.
Pocock is a key member of the loose trio and his ability to turn over possession at the ruck is a major weapon for Australia as they seek to end a run of five straight losses to England.
He injured his neck in the 26-7 victory over Italy last weekend, though England coach Eddie Jones suggested this week that the fact the loose-forward sat out training on Monday might have been a ruse from Australia.
“I hear this every time we play Australia — Pocock’s not going to be fit — so when I heard it I thought: ‘Here we go again.’,” Jones said. “You know those merry-go-rounds? It’s a bit like that.”
Pocock, who plays at the back of the scrum to accommodate captain Michael Hooper in the number seven jersey, will still be monitored in the lead-up to the game, according to Australian Rugby.
Scrumhalf Will Genia will earn a 100th cap as he returns to the side as one of five changes from the team that started against Italy.
Sekope Kepu is back at tighthead prop, with Tolu Latu to start at hooker in two changes to the front row.
Wing Jack Maddocks earns a third start with Dane Haylett-Petty and explosive fullback Israel Folau making up the rest of the back three.
Matt To’omua retains the flyhalf berth with Bernard Foley staying at inside centre to partner Samu Kerevi in the midfield.
Australia are hoping to end a dismal year on a high having won four of their 12 tests, putting pressure on coach Michael Cheika less than a year out from the Rugby World Cup in Japan.
They lost 9-6 to Wales in their opening November international, their first defeat to Warren Gatland’s side in 14 meetings, before claiming victory over Italy.
Team: 15-Israel Folau, 14-Dane Haylett-Petty, 13-Samu Kerevi, 12-Bernard Foley, 11-Jack Maddocks, 10-Matt To’omua, 9-Will Genia, 8-David Pocock, 7-Michael Hooper (captain), 6-Jack Dempsey, 5-Adam Coleman, 4-Izack Rodda, 3-Sekope Kepu, 2-Tolu Latu, 1-Scott Sio
Replacements: 16-Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17-Jermaine Ainsley, 18-Allan Alaalatoa, 19-Rob Simmons, 20-Ned Hanigan, 21-Pete Samu, 22-Nick Phipps, 23-Sefa Naivalu.
Reporting By Nick Said; Editing by Christian Radnedge and Toby Davis