England will enter Saturday’s climax to the autumn series against Samoa without Dylan Hartley at the helm for the first time in a Test under Eddie Jones.
Hartley has been selected on the bench to enable Jamie George, first choice hooker during the British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand, to make his full debut as one of nine changes to the XV that toppled Australia 30-6.
George Ford and Chris Robshaw will co-captain England at Twickenham in Hartley’s absence, reprising the roles they played against the Barbarians in a non-cap international in May.
“This week it is an opportunity for some squad members who haven’t been playing to put their best foot forward,” head coach Jones said.
Injuries to Nathan Hughes and Sam Underhill have resulted in a stopgap back row that sees Robshaw make his first start at openside since Jones took over in 2015, Sam Simmonds given his full debut at number eight and Maro Itoje slot in at six.
Robshaw’s move comes despite Jones stating in a newspaper column two years ago that he was only a “six-and-a-half at best”.
Every department of the team has been overhauled as part of the most radical surgery undertaken by Jones, whose record in charge stands at 21 wins from 22 Tests.
Ellis Genge starts at loosehead prop as Mako Vunipola misses out on the 23 altogether and George is finally given his chance to impress in the front row right from the start.
Joe Launchbury survives but Courtney Lawes is on the bench after Charlie Ewels was given his spot in the second row.
Behind the scrum, Danny Care displaces Ben Youngs at half-back and Mike Brown returns at full-back after recovering from concussion, forming a back three with the retained Jonny May and Elliot Daly.
Owen Farrell is rested for the second time this autumn and does not even feature on the bench, making way for a new centre partnership of Alex Lozowski and Henry Slade. Jonathan Joseph was dropped on Tuesday.
“This is an exciting squad to play against Samoa and we are expecting them to be immensely physical and committed this weekend,” Jones said.
“We want to follow up last week’s performance against Australia and play better again this week. Our intent in every game and every training session is to be better.
“We will have to play smart and will need to find ways to win the contest against Samoa.”
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