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Tuilagi returns to England starting lineup for Six Nations opener against Ireland

Tuilagi returns to England starting lineup for Six Nations opener against Ireland

England head coach Eddie Jones has named his squad to face Ireland in their opening Guinness Six Nations match in Dublin this Saturday, with Manu Tuilagi in line to make his first start in over four years.

Owen Farrell will captain England at fly half with Leicester Tigers centre Tuilagi named outside him at 12. Tuilagi will start his first match for England since the third Test against New Zealand in June 2014.

Brothers Mako and Billy Vunipola (Saracens) will also play for England for the first time this season having last featured in the Test series against South Africa in June 2018, while Tom Curry (Sale Sharks) and Mark Wilson (Newcastle Falcons) are both in line to make their Six Nations debuts having been named at openside and blindside flanker respectively.

Elliot Daly (Wasps), Jonny May (Leicester Tigers) and Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs) are named in the back three.

Dan Robson (Wasps) is set to make his England debut having been named as a finisher. The highly-experienced Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers) will start at scrum half.

Eddie Jones said: “I think it is quite clear to beat Ireland you have to beat them in the contest area. They are very good at the breakdown and in the air. Both those areas are a priority for us. Traditionally England and Ireland games are always very close, they are tough affairs, there is a lot of emotion in the games so our ability to finish the game strongly is going to be vital.

“It is well documented no one thinks we can win but I can tell you everyone inside our camp believes we can win. We are hugely looking forward to the weekend.”

On selecting Manu Tuilagi, Jones said: “I just felt for this game the best option was to play Owen Farrell at 10 and Manu as a like-for-like replacement for Ben Te’o. Manu has impressed us at the training camp, and is right to play.”

The Australian also hailed the return of Vunipola brothers Mako and Billy, who he says are ready to go toe-to-toe with Six Nations holders Ireland at the Aviva Stadium.

“It is nice to have Mako and Billy back,” Jones added. “Mako is obviously a world-class loose head. We missed him during the autumn but he has come back in good nick and really committed to be the best he can be. With Billy we haven’t had him for a long time. He’s also in great nick and ready to play well for us.”

England starting XV (485 caps)

15 Elliot Daly (Wasps, 25 caps)
14 Jonny May (Leicester Tigers, 40 caps)
13 Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs, 17 caps)
12 Manu Tuiagi (Leicester Tigers, 27 caps)
11 Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs, 29 caps)
10 Owen Farrell (Saracens, 65 caps)
9 Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 80 caps)

1 Mako Vunipola (Saracens, 51 caps)
2 Jamie George (Saracens, 32 caps)
3 Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins, 17 caps)
4 Maro Itoje (Saracens, 26 caps)
5 George Kruis (Saracens, 27 caps)
6 Mark Wilson (Newcastle Falcons, 8 caps)
7 Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, 5 caps)
8 Billy Vunipola (Saracens, 36 caps)

Finishers (206 caps)

16 Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, 7 caps)
17 Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers, 5 caps)
18 Harry Williams (Exeter Chiefs, 15 caps)
19 Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, 68 caps)
20 Nathan Hughes (Wasps, 18 caps)
21 Dan Robson (Wasps, uncapped)
22 George Ford (Leicester Tigers, 51 caps)
23 Chris Ashton (Sale Sharks, 42 caps)

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