Home Sports Joe Cokanasiga among 11 changes to England side to face Japan

Joe Cokanasiga among 11 changes to England side to face Japan

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Uncapped Bath winger Joe Cokanasiga is among 11 changes to England’s starting line-up for Saturday’s Test against Japan at Twickenham.

George Ford will captain the side from fly-half, where he replaces Owen Farrell, who, along with co-captain Dylan Hartley, drops to the bench.

Danny Care will start at scrum-half with Richard Wigglesworth on the bench and Ben Youngs dropping out of the 23-man squad.

There is a new centre pairing with Alex Lozowski picked at No 12 and Jack Nowell partnering him at outside centre.

Chris Ashton, a try-scorer on Saturday against the All Blacks, moves from right to left wing to accommodate Cokanasiga. Henry Slade provides backs cover off the bench.

There are three changes to the front row with Exeter Chiefs’ props Alec Hepburn and Harry Williams starting alongside Saracens’ hooker Jamie George.

Charlie Ewels comes into the side at second row, replacing the injured George Kruis. He will be partnered by Maro Itoje, who is named as vice-captain.

In the back row, Courtney Lawes starts at blindside flanker with Mark Wilson switching from number 8 to openside flanker. Zach Mercer will make his first start for England at No 8.

Uncapped Worcester forward Ted Hill is on the bench alongside Sam Underhill, who excelled last week against New Zealand.

England head coach Eddie Jones said: “Japan is an important game for us as we want to get back to winning ways. We have also tested ourselves in having a shorter preparation.

“We gave the players two days off after three weeks of intensive work. We have had a short preparation but a good preparation.”

“This weekend is a good opportunity for us to test the depth of the squad. A number of players have changed their roles going from finishers to starters and starters to finishers so that is the essential change to the squad.

“It is exciting to be able to give starting opportunities to Zach Mercer and Joe Cokanasiga and young Ted Hill on the bench.”

Ford came on as a late substitute in England’s first two November Tests against South Africa and New Zealand but has been handed the captain’s armband by Jones in what will be his 50th cap for his country.

“It’s a wonderful moment for him and his family,” Jones said. “Fifty caps and captaining the side is a great honour and every game he plays for England he gives his absolute best.”

England: 15 Elliot Daly, 14 Joe Cokanasiga, 13 Jack Nowell, 12 Alex Lozowski, 11 Chris Ashton, 10 George Ford (captain), 9 Danny Care, 1 Alec Hepburn, 2 Jamie George, 3 Harry Williams, 4 Charlie Ewels, 5 Maro Itoje (vice-captain), 6 Courtney Lawes, 7 Mark Wilson, 8 Zach Mercer

Replacements: 16 Dylan Hartley, 17 Ben Moon, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Ted Hill, 20 Sam Underhill, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Henry Slade

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(c) Sky News 2018: Joe Cokanasiga among 11 changes to England side to face Japan