Six Nations

Clifford in novice England back-row v Wales

2017-02-09 13:15
Eddie Jones (Gallo Images)

London - Jack Clifford has been recalled to an inexperienced England back row in place of Tom Wood for Saturday's Six Nations international against Wales in Cardiff.

Clifford, fit following a chest injury, has been called into the starting side by coach Eddie Jones while Wood, who has been struggling with a chest injury, is demoted to the bench.

The only other change announced by Jones on Thursday to the England XV that started in the Grand Slam champions 19-16 tournament-opening win over France at Twickenham is on the right wing, with Jack Nowell replacing Jonny May after the latter was sin-binned against the French.

May, like Wood, is now on the bench.

England could find themselves up against a vastly experienced Welsh loose forward trio comprising three British and Irish Lions in Taulupe Faletau (62 caps), Justin Tipuric (47 caps) and Sam Warburton (70 caps). 

Clifford, Maro Itoje - best known as a lock - and Nathan Hughes have just four back-row starts between them, while Wood has 46 caps.

Clifford's lone Test start came in a 27-13 win over Wales at Twickenham in May, a match in which the 23-year-old Harlequins back-row scored a try. 

"Jack Clifford also deserves his starting role. He is a hard-working, young player," Jones said in a Rugby Football Union statement.

"He has got a good record against Wales, he had a superb game against them in May, he knows what he is going to expect from Wales and we're looking forward to him making an impact to our back-row play.

"Tom Wood will also play his part later in the game off the bench as a finisher," the Australian added.

Nowell impressed after coming on as a 69th-minute replacement against France, his strong carry forward helping pave the way for the decisive try by fellow replacement back Ben Te'o.

"Jack Nowell starts this week, with Jonny May changing to a finisher," Jones said. "Jack has an excellent work-rate and he's a guy that carries through the line, which will be important for us."

Jones took the blame for what he said was England's "awful" performance against France, where the bench played a key role in preserving his perfect record as Red Rose boss.

This week has seen Jones trying to explain why England are "petrified" of playing Wales in Cardiff, even though the record in the Six Nations era is four wins apiece.

"It's been a great week of focused preparation and we can't wait to play Wales," Jones said.

"Playing Wales in Cardiff is one of the biggest games in world rugby and we're excited. These are the games you want to be part of as a player and a coach," the former Australia and Japan boss added.

"We have a young team eager to play well at the great Principality Stadium," added Jones, yet to confirm if he will agree to Wales's request to keep the venue's retractable roof closed for the match.

England are on a national record 15-match winning streak, with the last 14 all under Jones.

They are now just three victories short of equalling world champions New Zealand's all-time tier one record of 18 successive Test wins. 

Wales, who started the Six Nations with a 33-7 win over Italy in Rome on Sunday, were due to name their side later Thursday.

Teams:

Wales

15 Leigh Halfpenny; 14 George North, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Scott Williams, 11 Liam Williams; 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Rhys Webb; 8 Ross Moriarty, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Sam Warburton; 5 Alun Wyn Jones (capt), 4 Jake Ball; 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Rob Evans

Substitutes: 16 Scott Baldwin, 17 Nicky Smith, 18 Samson Lee, 19 Cory Hill, 20 Taulupe Faletau, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Sam Davies, 23 Jamie Roberts

England

15 Mike Brown, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Elliot Daly, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 Jack Clifford, 6 Maro Itoje, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley (captain), 1 Joe Marler 

Substitutes: 16 Jamie George, 17 Matt Mullan, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Tom Wood, 20 James Haskell, 21 Danny Care, 22 Ben Te'o, 23 Jonny May

Read more on:    england  |  wales  |  six nations  |  rugby
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