Fresh from battling to a 33-25 victory over Ireland on Friday, England head coach Rob Hunter has announced nine changes to the side that will face Scotland later today.
Owen Farrell, having played the entirety of his England career at inside centre, will start at fly half for the very first time in an England shirt with George Ford moving to the bench. Ford and Farrell have regularly played the ten-twelve axis together for England, however against Ireland there were signs that Farrell yearned to return to the position where he has thrived with Saracens.
Elsewhere Christian Wade, Rob Buchanan, Sam Twomey, Will Collier, Marland Yarde, Dan Robson, Ryan Bower and Sam Jones all come into the starting XV. Jones, the Wasps back row, takes the place of number 8 and Captain Alex Gray, who in turn moves to the bench. Gray’s demotion means that Worcester back row Matt Kvesic will lead England for the very first time. Kvesic’s outstanding performance against Ireland will surely have been a factor in coach Rob Hunter’s decision.
Hunter has been keen to stress that the rotation is strictly with an eye on fitness, and it is likely that the players such as Gray and full back Ben Ransom are sure to be restored to the starting line-up for the bigger matches to come.
The hard grounds of Italy make it the perfect setting for fast, expansive rugby. Scotland suffered a humiliating 33-0 defeat at the hands of South Africa in their opening match and one would suspect that England will be just as ruthless.
The line-up in full is as follows:
15 Jonathan Joseph, 14 Marland Yarde, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Ryan Mills, 11 Christian Wade, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Dan Robson; 1 Ryan Bower, 2 Rob Buchanan, 3 Will Collier, 4 Sam Twomey, 5 Joe Launchbury, 6 Matt Kvesic (c), 7 Matt Everard, 8 Sam Jones.
Koree Britton, Henry Thomas, Charlie Matthews, Alex Gray, Chris Cook, George Ford, Ben Ransom.
The match will be shown live on Sky Sports 3. Coverage starts at 5pm and the game kicks off at 5.10pm.