Daly on the wing, Itoje in back row for England
london – Elliot Daly will start on the wing and Maro Itoje will play at blindside flanker as England begin the defence of their Six Nations title against France at Twickenham on Saturday, coach Eddie Jones said when naming his side on Thursday.
Itoje, who missed the autumn internationals with a broken hand, makes a positional change to slot in for the injured Chris Robshaw, leaving Joe Launchbury and Courtney Lawes to fill the lock positions.
Daly was picked on the left wing ahead of Jack Nowell, who is on the bench, with Jonny May on the right.
Itoje has played in the back row for his club Saracens and filled in there for England but this is his first international start in the position vacated by Robshaw, who underwent shoulder surgery earlier this month.
“Maro is an athletic boy and has a good work-rate and he is a great chop tackler which fits the mould that Chris Robshaw has done for us at six and done exceedingly well,” Jones said.
“Maro has got massive shoes to fill but he is a good, young lad. What I’ve been particularly impressed with since he came back for this campaign is his application to learn and get better.”
The selection of Daly ahead of Nowell, another player who missed the autumn tests, was a surprise, but Jones liked what he saw in November, at least until the Wasps back was sent off after five minutes against Argentina for a dangerous tackle.
“We’ve got three great wingers in the squad,” he said. “Jonny May, Elliot Daly gives us something different on the left wing and Jack Nowell will be great for us off the bench.”
Having overcome a poor first half to beat France in Paris to secure the grand slam last season, Jones is demanding a step up on home soil.
“We want to be absolutely daring against the French in this first game and set the standard for the tournament,” he said.
“(France coach) Guy Noves likes a big team. He picks a traditional French forward pack with squat front-rowers who scrummage well, big locks who give a lot of ballast and athletic back-rowers,” the Australian added.
“It’s based on size and crunching that gain line, getting an off-load and then playing with flair. Of course this gives you an opportunity when you’ve got a big forward pack against you and we intend to exploit that.”
England have won their last 14 matches, a national record shared with Clive Woodward’s team from 2002-03. If they repeat their grand slam of last season it would take their run to 19, beating the record of 18 set by New Zealand from 2015-16.
15-Mike Brown, 14-Jonny May, 13-Jonathan Joseph, 12-Owen Farrell, 11-Elliot Daly, 10-George Ford, 9-Ben Youngs; 8-Nathan Hughes, 7-Tom Wood, 6-Maro Itoje, 5-Courtney Lawes, 4-Joe Launchbury, 3-Dan Cole, 2-Dylan Hartley (captain), 1-Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16-Jamie George, 17-Matt Mullan, 18-Kyle Sinckler 19-Teimana Harrison, 20-James Haskell, 21-Danny Care, 22-Ben Te’o, 23-Jack Nowell.