London - Ben Te'o will make his first England appearance in nearly a
year after being selected at outside centre in the defending champions' Six
Nations opener against Italy in Rome on Sunday.
British and Irish Lions midfielder Te'o, a powerful
ball-carrier, has displaced Jonathan Joseph, more of a traditional 'running'
centre, in the side picked by Australian coach Eddie Jones after recovering
from a severe ankle injury that ruled him out of England's November series.
The match will be the first time Te'o has played since
October, with the New Zealand-born rugby league convert partnering Owen Farrell
in the centres.
Te'o's only previous start for England was also against
Italy in the corresponding fixture at Twickenham last season when an eventual
36-15 win for Jones's men was overshadowed by the controversial 'no ruck'
tactics deployed by Azzurri coach Conor O'Shea.
Dylan Hartley remains as captain, with the hooker looking to
lead England to their 23rd win in 24 Tests under Jones.
Meanwhile Ben Youngs has retained his place as the starting
scrum-half, despite continued pressure for the No 9 shirt from Danny Care.
Despite injuries that have cost them several first-choice
players, England - who have won all 23 of their previous Tests against Italy -
will be huge favourites to start their bid for an unprecedented third
successive outright Six Nations title with a victory.
"I have selected the strongest available side to play
Italy this weekend and the players are excited to play in Rome," Jones
"Our preparation over the last two weeks has been
excellent and the players feel refreshed. We want to start the tournament well
and are ready to go hunting against Italy."
The former Australia and Japan coach added: "We know we
need to get our set-piece right, be defensively strong and play with aggression
and plenty of energy."
15 Mike Brown, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Ben Te'o, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Jonny May, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Sam Simmonds, 7 Chris Robshaw, 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 Maro Itoje, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley (captain), 1 Mako Vunipola
Substitutes: 16 Jamie George, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Harry Williams, 19 George Kruis, 20 Sam Underhill, 21 Danny Care, 22 Jonathan Joseph, 23 Jack Nowell