Six Nations 2015: Stuart Lancaster confirms England side for Wales
Head coach forced into another new-look midfield partnership of Luther Burrell and Jonathan Joseph, Cipriani and Easter on the bench
Stuart Lancaster has confirmed Bath Rugby’s Jonathan Joseph will partner Northampton’s Luther Burrell in the England midfield to face Wales.
Despite a lengthy injury list, the England head coach has recalled four British and Irish Lions, all of whom played at the Millennium Stadium in the Red Rose’s last visited to the Welsh capital.
We’ve had to make some tight calls but we are excited about the side selected for what will be a big challenge.
Leicester Tigers tighthead prop Dan Cole returns in the place of injured Bath prop David Wilson, while Leicester Tigers duo Tom Youngs and Tom Croft, and Saracens loosehead Mako Vunipola, are among the replacements.
Wasps captain and flanker James Haskell comes in on the blindside in place of Tom Wood with Saracens number 8 Billy Vunipola restored to the pack and his club team-mate George Kruis into the second row in place of Courtney Lawes.
Lancaster has also had to rework his backline and Bath’s Anthony Watson and Gloucester Rugby’s Jonny May get the nod ahead of Exeter Chiefs’ Jack Nowell on the wings.
“We’ve had to make some tight calls but we are excited about the side selected for what will be a big challenge,” Lancaster said.
“JJ has been one of the form centres in the country. He and Luther have trained well together and this is a big opportunity for both of them.
“Billy Vunipola has also been playing well for Saracens and it’s good to be able to give George Kruis his first international start after his impressive run off the bench in November.
“Dan Cole and James Haskell bring a lot of experience, as do the bench, and their contribution will be crucial on Friday night.”
In-form Sale Sharks outside-half Danny Cipriani has to make do with an understudy role to George Ford, while Gloucester centre Billy Twelvetrees also provides an option across the backline.
Harlequins back-rower Nick Easter is also confirmed on the bench, along with Northampton-bound Newcastle Falcons tighthead prop Kieran Brookes, who is preferred to Bath’s Henry Thomas.
Wales: Leigh Halfpenny (Toulon); Alex Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues), Jonathan Davies (ASM Clermont Auvergne), Jamie Roberts (Racing Metro), George North (Northampton Saints); Dan Biggar (Ospreys), Rhys Webb (Ospreys); Gethin Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), Richard Hibbard (Gloucester), Samson Lee (Scarlets), Jake Ball (Scarlets), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys), Dan Lydiate (Ospreys), Sam Warburton (Cardiff Blues, captain), Taulupe Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons).
Replacements: Scott Baldwin (Ospreys), Paul James (Bath Rugby), Aaron Jarvis (Ospreys), Luke Charteris (Racing Metro), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys); Mike Phillips (Racing Metro), Rhys Priestland (Scarlets), Liam Williams (Scarlets).
England: Mike Brown (Harlequins); Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby), Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby), Luther Burrell (Northampton Saints), Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby); George Ford (Bath Rugby), Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers); Joe Marler (Harlequins), Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints), Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers), David Attwood (Bath Rugby),George Kruis (Saracens), James Haskell (Wasps), Chris Robshaw (Harlequins, captain), Billy Vunipola (Saracens).
Replacements: Tom Youngs (Leicester Tigers), Mako Vunipola (Saracens), Kieran Brookes (Newcastle Falcons), Tom Croft (Leicester Tigers), Nick Easter (Harlequins), Richard Wigglesworth (Saracens), Danny Cipriani (Sale Sharks), Billy Twelvetrees (Gloucester Rugby).