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Itoje back for England as Jones calls on Lions contingent

Itoje back for England as Jones calls on Lions contingent

Maro Itoje returns to the England starting XV for the clash against Wales in Cardiff on Saturday as one of three changes made by Eddie Jones to his Red Rose outfit.

The 2017 British & Irish Lions star did not feature in the matchday squad for the 33-19 win over Wales at Twickenham in their opening Rugby World Cup warm-up encounter.

But he is named in the second row for the rematch at Principality Stadium, with Courtney Lawes playing at blindside flanker and Lewis Ludlam moving to openside.

The only other change to the starting line-up will see Ruaridh McConnochie start his first England game after being withdrawn from the team last weekend due to injury.

McConnochie will be joined in the back three by 2017 Lions tourist Elliot Daly, who once again starts at full back, while Joe Cokanasiga takes his place on the other wing.

Jonathan Joseph, another member of the Lions squad that toured New Zealand two years ago, also retains his place in the midfield alongside Piers Francis.

Two-time tourist Dan Cole features in an unchanged front row alongside Ellis Genge and Luke Cowan-Dickie, while Joe Launchbury and Billy Vunipola complete the pack.

Elsewhere, Lions trio Owen Farrell, Jamie George and Kyle Sinckler are also included in the matchday 23 for the first time in this series of matches ahead of the Rugby World Cup.

Jones said: “Our selection strategy for our second game is similar to the first, so a bit of a mix-and-match approach. We are looking at different combinations and have a particular strategy for this game.

“The game is very much about ourselves preparing for the World Cup and we are respectful that we have got such strong opposition at their home ground. We are looking forward to it.

“The squad has been progressing well this week and I think there is a realisation among the squad now that the hard work really starts, nothing has been achieved.”

England starting XV: 15. Elliot Daly, 14. Ruaridh McConnochie, 13. Jonathan Joseph, 12. Piers Francis, 11. Joe Cokanasiga, 10. George Ford (c), 9. Willi Heinz; 1. Ellis Genge, 2. Luke Cowan-Dickie, 3. Dan Cole, 4. Joe Launchbury, 5. Maro Itoje, 6. Courtney Lawes, 7. Lewis Ludlam, 8. Billy Vunipola

Replacements: 16. Jamie George, 17. Joe Marler, 18. Kyle Sinckler, 19. George Kruis, 20. Jack Singleton, 21. Ben Youngs, 22. Owen Farrell, 23. Manu Tuilagi

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