England hand Jack Willis debut in Autumn Nations Cup opener against Georgia


Eddie Jones has handed a much-anticipated debut to “flipping tough” Wasps flanker Jack Willis in England’s Autumn Nations Cup opener against Georgia on Saturday.

Willis starts in a team showing seven changes from the one that beat Italy 34-5 to secure their third Six Nations title under Jones 12 days ago, their first game since March.

This will be England’s first home fixture since the coronavirus pandemic, and also Georgia’s first appearance at Twickenham. The two teams have only met twice, at the 2003 and 2011 World Cups.

There are first starts for centre Ollie Lawrence and prop Will Stuart, while Max Malins could make his debut off the bench.

Willis was the star of the Premiership season as Wasps made the final and will make his debut at openside flanker.

“He’s got a good nose for the ball, he gets in good positions, has good natural strength – he’s not a gym-strength person – and he’s flippin’ tough,” said Jones.

“He’s a good defender, he’s an attacker and is one of the few forwards in English rugby who is good at the pick-and-go.”

Willis is joined on the flank by Maro Itoje, who moves from second row, where Joe Launchbury and Charlie Ewels return. Bath prop Stuart starts at tight-head, with Ellis Genge getting the nod on the loose-head side.

Elliot Daly (R) has returned to the England starting XV after injuries.


Elliot Daly returns from injury at full-back, but there is no place for Joe Marler. England are still missing eight players through injury, including George Ford and Manu Tuilagi.

With Anthony Watson out, Jonathan Joseph shifts to the wing to accommodate Worcester’s Lawrence, who came off the bench in Rome and Jones said is selected for his power, at centre alongside Henry Slade.

At scrum-half, Dan Robson’s wait for a first start continues, but he is joined on the bench by Joe Marchant and the uncapped Malins.

There is no place for Ollie Thorley, despite him being identified as one of Jones’s “hybrid players”, who could flit between the pack and the backs. Another of those players, Ben Earl, is on the bench alongside regular starters Tom Curry and Kyle Sinckler.

England XV: E Daly; J Joseph, O Lawrence, H Slade, J May; O Farrell (c), B Youngs; E Genge, J George, W Stuart; C Ewels, J Launchbury, M Itoje, J Willis; B Vunipola

Replacements: T Dunn, M Vunipola, K Sinckler, B Earl, T Curry, D Robson, M Malins, J Marchant

The Autumn Nations Cup will be available to stream on Amazon Prime Video from November 13.

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