BAGSHOT, England (Reuters) - Tom Curry and Sam Underhill - dubbed the “kamikaze kids” by coach Eddie Jones - will line up either side of Billy Vunipola in an exciting, highly mobile England back row for Saturday’s World Cup warm-up match against Ireland at Twickenham.
Captain Owen Farrell will start his first game of the warm-up series, but at inside centre, alongside Manu Tuilagi for the first time, with George Ford retained at flyhalf.
It is the first time Jones has started with the Ford/Farrell combination since last year’s tour of South Africa - though the two played in those positions in the latter stages of last week’s defeat in Wales.
Jonny May also makes his first appearance this season on the left wing, with Joe Cokanasiga switching to the right and Elliot Daly remaining at fullback.
Jones still seems some way from settling on his preferred back three - Jack Nowell is still out injured - and the same applies to the loose forwards, where Curry and Underhill certainly bring a dynamic dimension.
Curry will wear number six but both players are considered open-sides and brought some real vigour to England’s breakdown work in their previous appearances. Underhill, 23, impressed in last year’s Autumn internationals but then missed the Six Nations with an ankle injury.
That opened the door for 21-year-old Curry — who was forced off during the first half of England’s first warm-up against Wales with a shoulder injury.
Jones said on Thursday he was still not sure they would get to Saturday’s game in shape. “They’ve still got to get through a training session - they’re like the kamikaze kids those two,” he said.
Explaining his thinking in opting for two sevens, he said: “We feel the way the game’s going it’s becoming a more contestable game and we saw that in the last game at the breakdown. We think two guys who are pretty good in that area might bring us an advantage.”
Whether Jones will stick with the two youngsters when the tournament begins in Japan next month remains to be seen.
Mark Wilson, who is probably favourite to make the World Cup starting team at blindside, is on the bench on Saturday after missing both Wales games.
Jones said he hoped that reuniting Farrell and Ford would open the game up a bit more after the Cardiff clash that did not feature a single linebreak for either team.
“These games are about finding a bit more about selection and combinations but also looking at the tactical approaches we can employ in Japan — when you are going to need a few.
“We feel we need to pass a bit more in this game.”
Prop Mako Vunipola, who has not played since suffering a serious hamstring injury in May, is on the bench.
England beat Wales at Twickenham but then lost the return match in Cardiff last week. After the Ireland game they complete their preparations against Italy on Sept. 6.
Ireland named their team earlier on Thursday, with Ross Byrne handed a first start at flyhalf.
Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Toby Davis