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Eddie Jones has sprung a major surprise by dropping in-form fly-half George Ford and restoring Owen Farrell to No 10 for England’s Rugby World Cup quarter-final against Australia on Saturday.
Despite starring as one of England’s best performers in Japan, Ford has been dropped to the replacements to allow Henry Slade to return to the side at outside centre, with Manu Tuilagi moving inside to fill the void left by Farrell.
Slade has played just 40 minutes of rugby this season after suffering a left knee injury in preparation for England’s first World Cup warm-up match in August, and will make his first start of the campaign at the Oita Stadium at the weekend.
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Mako Vunipola will also make his first start of the World Cup, having been preferred to Joe Marler at loosehead prop after recovering from hamstring surgery. Billy Vunipola is fit to retain his place at No 8, while Courtney Lawes regains his place in the second row ahead of George Kruis in an otherwise unchanged line-up from the team that beat Argentina 39-10 two weeks ago.
Jones gave the suggestion that with the emphasis on “defensive brutality” against the Wallabies, Ford’s demotion to the bench lies in beefing up the midfield with Slade and pitting Tuilagi against the dangerous Australian centre Samu Kerevi, who has starred at 12 in this World Cup.
“Once you get to the quarter-finals it’s about having the right mindset,” said Jones. “We know how well we can play, it’s about us playing to our strengths and trying to take away from what Australia want.
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