England drop Ford for Australia quarterfinal

Rugby

BEPPU, Japan — England coach Eddie Jones has gone for all out power in making three changes for his side’s Rugby World Cup quarterfinal against Australia in Oita.

Jones has made two changes to the pack and moved skipper Owen Farrell and Manu Tuilagi one spot closer in, paving the way for the return of Henry Slade at outside centre. That decision means George Ford drops to the bench after starting each of England’s three pool games.

It is a move that seemingly shores up England’s midfield defence with Australia expected to announce a fledgling centre pairing of Samu Kerevi and Jordan Petaia later on Thursday.

“We just feel that’s the best combination for this week; [Kerevi] is a dangerous ball-carrier and whoever they pick at 13, if they pick the other big Fijian boy [Petaia], they’ve got two big ball-carriers,” Jones said. “But we believe we’ve got the defensive capabilities to handle them and to cause them a few problems.”

Pressed on the decision to move Farrell to No. 10 and cast Ford aside after three seemingly strong games, Jones said the Leicester fly-half would have an important job to do off the bench later in the match.

“Well, George is in the 23. We have a starting and a finishing team so he’s going to finish for us instead of starting.

“Well, I spoke to him this morning and obviously he’s disappointed but he knows his role in the team. He’s got an important role in the team and that’s how we’ve spoken all along, we’ve got a squad of 23, we look at it as a squad of 23, everyone has a role to do.

“We’ve left a lot of good players, eight players, out of the squad of 31 and they’re disappointed but he’s got a significant role with us to play.

“It’s always a horses for courses situation in terms of selection, we’re always looking to pick the right team for the right game and we feel this is the best starting and finishing team for this game.”

Up front, Mako Vunipola has been named to make his first start of the tournament at loosehead prop ahead of Joe Marler, while Courtney Lawes has been preferred over George Kruis at lock.

“He’s [Vunipola] been training exceptionally well, we feel like that his experience and his ability to be influential within the team warrants his selection. Joe Marler has been great for us as has Ellis Genge, again it’s a difficult selection.”

Jonny May will play his 50th Test on Saturday.

ENGLAND: Elliot Daly, Anthony Watson, Henry Slade, Manu Tuilagi, Jonny May, Owen Farrell, Ben Youngs Billy Vunipola, Sam Underhill, Tom Curry, Courntey Lawes, Maro Itoje, Kyle Sinckler, Jamie George, Mako Vunipola. Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Joe Marler, Dan Cole, George Kruis, Lewis Ludlam, Willi Heinz, George Ford, Jonathan Joseph.

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