Eddie Jones believes England will benefit from the return of “great competitor” Owen Farrell for Saturday’s clash with Australia at Twickenham.
Farrell was rested for England’s opening autumn Test against Argentina but returns at inside centre to face the in-form Wallabies. He replaces Henry Slade, who drops to the replacements’ bench, and Jones expects him to make his presence felt against Michael Cheika’s men.
“He is a good communicator and a great competitor,” said Jones. “We will need to compete really hard against Australia and there is nobody better at that than Owen.”
Jonny May returns from a hamstring strain on the right wing and Anthony Watson starts at full-back for the first time as Mike Brown has not recovered from concussion.
Jones bristled at suggestions that England would be trying to make up for an underwhelming performance in the 21-8 win against Argentina.
“It seems that since we had an ordinary game against Argentina the whole thing has exploded but we put some foundations down and we’re looking forward to playing better this week,” he said.
“We are anticipating a tough game against probably the form team in the world at the moment. The players have had an extremely positive week. They have trained well and worked hard.”
Maro Itoje was, like Farrell, rested against the Pumas but has been given a place among the replacements while Joe Launchbury partners Courtney Lawes in the second row after George Kruis’ performance against Argentina led to him being dropped.
Asked to explain why Itoje had only made the bench, Jones replied: “We are looking after our players. If you look at the players lost to injury since the Lions tour – we have lost (Ben) Te’o and (Jack) Nowell and Wales have lost (George) North and (Jonathan) Davies.
“We want to make sure we look after our players. Just because Maro is starting on the bench doesn’t mean that he can’t play a lot of the game.”
Welcoming May’s return, Jones said: “He’ll be the fastest player on the pitch and we’ll need Jonny to finish on the wing.”
England captain Dylan Hartley said the players were eager to put the Argentina match behind them.
“The attitude of the players is to park that game, look forward and move on,” the 31-year-old said. “We want to improve and the attitude and intensity of the way we’ve prepared, we’ll take confidence from that.
“Competition is strong and everyone is chipping in. The key thing for us is winning and we want to improve off the back off that.”
Farrell, who acted as waterboy against Argentina, will relieve George Ford of the goalkicking duties and be reinstated as vice-captain behind Hartley.