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England make five changes for Six Nations clash against Italy

Photo by Peter Cziborra/PA Images via Getty Images

England have made five changes for their Six Nations clash against Italy on Saturday at Twickenham.

Following their opening round loss to Scotland, England have handed starts to George Ford, Mako Vunipola, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Kyle Sinckler and Courtney Lawes. Ollie Lawrence and Mark Wilson, who both started in their championship opener, drop out of the 23.

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Ford starts at fly-half which sees captain Owen Farrell shift to inside centre. Eddie Jones has picked a new front-row with Mako Vunipola returning at loose-head after injury, Luke Cowan-Dickie at hooker and Kyle Sinckler back at tight-head after his suspension. And Lawes comes into the back-row in place of Wilson.

Jones has also shaken up the bench with Jack Willis and Charlie Ewels named, as he opts for a six-two split of forwards and backs.

"As always, we've picked what we think is our strongest 23 to try and win the game," Jones said.

"We're pleased to have Mako and Kyle back into the team and we've made some changes to our starting XV, but our finishers are just as important to our game plan. We look at the whole 80 minutes.

"We've trained very well this week, I've been very pleased with the players' attitudes and work-rate.

"We're hoping to put on a good performance on Saturday and kick on with our Guinness Six Nations campaign."

Meanwhile, Italy head coach Franco Smith has opted to add more experience to his youthful side handing starts to centre Carlo Canna and prop Andrea Lovotti.

An injury to Marco Zanon sees Zebre playmaker Canna start at inside centre for his 49th Azzurri appearance, making him the most capped player in the starting lineup.

"We will face one of the best teams in the world at an iconic stadium," Smith said. "We've worked hard this week with particular detail on a few factors, with the objective of putting in a high level of performance on Saturday."

Juan Ignacio Brex, who made his debut in the 50-10 defeat to France in Rome last weekend, moves to outside centre, while 43-cap loosehead Lovotti starts ahead of Daniele Rimpelli, who drops out of the matchday squad.

Canna was Smith's preferred option at inside centre throughout the autumn, offering guidance to rookie 20-year-old fly-half Paolo Garbisi and another kicking option in the midfield.

Garbisi's half-back partnership with 19-year-old Gloucester scrum-half Stephen Varney continues, while Luca Sperandio starts again on the wing after providing a moment of consolation against France with a superbly executed chip-and-chase try.

Lovotti's introduction is the only change to the pack as the 31-year-old prepares for his first international appearance since the 17-0 defeat to Scotland in round three of the 2020 Six Nations.

On the bench, 60-time Italy international Tommaso Allan comes in with flanker Maxime Mbanda dropping out as Smith changes to a split of five forwards and three backs.

England team

Elliot Daly, Anthony Watson, Henry Slade, Owen Farrell (captain), Jonny May, George Ford, Ben Youngs; Mako Vunipola, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, Jonny Hill, Courtney Lawes, Tom Curry, Billy Vunipola

Replacements:

Jamie George, Ellis Genge, Will Stuart, Charlie Ewels, Ben Earl, Jack Willis, Dan Robson, Max Malins

Italy team

Jacopo Trulla, Luca Sperandio, Juan Ignacio Brex, Carlo Canna, Montanna Ioane, Paolo Garbisi, Stephen Varney, Michele Lamaro, Johan Meyer, Sebastian Negri, David Sisi, Marco Lazzaroni, Marco Riccioni, Luca Bigi (captain), Andrea Lovotti.

Replacements:

Gianmarco Lucchesi, Danilo Fischetti, Giosuè Zilocchi, Niccolò Cannone, Federico Ruzza, Guglielmo Palazzani, Tommaso Allan, Federico Mori.

Information from Reuters contributed to this report.