BAGSHOT, England (Reuters) - Anthony Watson and Mark Wilson will make their first England appearances since the World Cup in Saturday’s Six Nations game against Wales as the team was named on Thursday just as England’s final game in Italy was being postponed.
Winger Watson is back from a calf injury and Wilson, who will start at openside flanker, returns after knee surgery to replace Sam Underhill, who suffered a minor head injury in training. Courtney Lawes continues at blindside flanker with Tom Curry at number eight.
Elliot Daly remains at fullback while Jonathan Joseph, who started on the wing in the win over Ireland, drops out of the matchday squad.
Ben Youngs will win his 99th cap at scrumhalf alongside flyhalf George Ford as England field their World Cup final backline for the first time in the championship.
Joe Marler starts at loosehead with Ellis Genge on the bench. Mako Vunipola was unavailable because of self-isolation in case of coronavirus risk after he returned from a trip to Tonga via Hong Kong.
Jones declined to discuss the impact of the virus on the rest of the championship, with England’s final game against Italy confirmed as postponed on Thursday.
He said he was unconcerned that Vunipola is due to play for his club Saracens this week.
“The only thing we’ve got to worry about is playing Wales on Saturday,” he told reporters.
“We believe we’ve made the right decision, if Saracens think otherwise, then fair play. The advice was it was best not for him to come into camp so we took that advice.”
With the Italians’ fixture in Ireland this Saturday already called off on the advice of the Irish government, the tournament remains in a state of flux. The crowded international calendar is making re-arrangement a challenge.
So all eyes will be on Twickenham (1645) where England are seeking revenge for last year’s defeat in Cardiff.
“Everyone’s focused on Wales, we had a great training run yesterday and the boys are excited,” Jones said. “You’ve got to remember they beat us last year so we owe them one.
“Wales are a well-coached side and they’ve been building on their attack since Wayne Pivac has taken over (as coach). They pass the ball a little bit more, but there isn’t any great change at the moment.
“They were semi-finalists at the World Cup and to get that far you have to be a good team. They were very unlucky to be beaten by France (in this year’s Six Nations) - all the stats in the game indicate they should have won the game - so we are going to be playing a very, very tough team.”
After their wins over Scotland and Ireland, England are back in the title hunt, but they need to beat the Welsh and Italy - if and when that game is played - while hoping that unbeaten France slip up in one of their two remaining games.
Wales, Grand Slam winners last year, have lost to Ireland and France already this year. They also named their team on Thursday, with flyhalf Dan Biggar and wings George North and Liam Williams included in the starting team.
Reporting by Mitch Phillips; Editing by David Goodman and Toby Davis