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‘Spiritual leader’ Farrell tasked with playmaking duties against Springboks

The British and Irish Lion will make only his third start at fly-half for England since Eddie Jones took charge.

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England’s Owen Farrell is back in the fly-half berth (Paul Harding/PA)

England’s Owen Farrell is back in the fly-half berth (Paul Harding/PA)

England’s Owen Farrell is back in the fly-half berth (Paul Harding/PA)

Owen Farrell has been acclaimed as England’s “spiritual leader” after winning the fly-half selection race for Saturday’s clash with South Africa at Twickenham.

The British and Irish Lion will make only his third start in the position since the launch of the Eddie Jones era in 2016, forming a midfield trio alongside Ben Te’o and Henry Slade.

It means George Ford continues with the bench role he filled against the Springboks in Cape Town in June as Jones looks beyond the twin maker policy that has previously served him well.

Already England’s co-captain, tactical general and goalkicker, Jones has now entrusted the Saracen with the playmaking duties as the countdown to next year’s World Cup enters a key phase.

“We know what George and Owen can do, so we’ve got that combination already,” Jones said.

“I wanted to see the difference it makes playing Owen at 10 with bigger centres. It gives us a different way of being able to play. Tactically we’ll be a little bit different.

“Owen’s a good decision maker and he has a very good tactical kicking game. He’s bit of a spiritual leader in our side so being close to the action will help in that regard.”

The selection of Te’o at inside centre is a gamble given the Worcester centre has been limited to a mere 28 minutes of rugby this season due to thigh surgery and a calf problem.

Te’o made his comeback as a second-half replacement on Challenge Cup duty on October 20 but has been propelled straight back into action, Jones convinced by his impact during the the squad’s training camp in Portugal.

“Ben’s ready to start. He’s a very good player – a Lions player – so we know what he’s capable of doing.

“He’s come into camp fit, has worked hard to get over his injury and is a good ball carrier and a good defensive player.”

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Ben Te’o is a gamble for England due to his lack of game time this season (Paul Harding/PA)

Ben Te’o is a gamble for England due to his lack of game time this season (Paul Harding/PA)

PA Archive/PA Images

Ben Te’o is a gamble for England due to his lack of game time this season (Paul Harding/PA)

The inclusion of Te’o means Manu Tuilagi is confined to a bench a role where he will win his first cap since 2016 as an impact substitute amid high expectation.

Tuilagi has played far more rugby this season and appears to have overcome an injury-ravaged few years, his recent man of the match performance for Leicester against the Scarlets evidence of a player recapturing his form.

“Manu’s coming back nicely and we want to bring him along. He just has to keep doing the basics well,” Jones said.

Chris Ashton has failed to make the matchday 23 altogether with Jonny May and Jack Nowell preferred on the wings.

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Henry Slade will start at outside centre (David Davies/PA)

Henry Slade will start at outside centre (David Davies/PA)

PA Wire/PA Images

Henry Slade will start at outside centre (David Davies/PA)

Completing the backline is Slade’s inclusion at outside centre, the position he filled throughout the 2-1 series defeat by the Springboks in June.

“Slade is a good player who gives us a left-footed kicking option. He’s got good catching and running skills, a good decision maker,” Jones said.

The void left by an injury crisis at number eight is filled by Mark Wilson, who will be winning his fifth cap in the absence of Billy Vunipola and Nathan Hughes.

Dylan Hartley, co-captain alongside Farrell, has more caps than the rest of the pack put together having made 93 international appearances.


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