Sam Simmonds to make Six Nations debut for England vs Italy
Exeter Chiefs No 8 Sam Simmonds will make his Six Nations debut for England against Italy in Rome on Sunday, having been named to start by Eddie Jones.
Simmonds made his England debut against Argentina in November and with Billy Vunipola (arm), Nathan Hughes (knee) and Zach Mercer (illness) all ruled out through injury – plus James Haskell’s suspension – the 23-year-old has been named to start at No 8 at the Stadio Olimpico.
Elsewhere, Bath centre Jonathan Joseph must make do with a place on the bench as Worcester Warriors centre Ben Te’o starts at outside centre, alongside playmaker Owen Farrell in midfield.
Simmonds’ Exeter Chief team-mate Jack Nowell has been named on the replacements bench having made a ‘miracle recovery’ from an ankle injury.
Nowell had initially been expected to be out for three to four weeks but will provide cover to a back-three of Mike Brown, Anthony Watson and Jonny May.
Another Chiefs player in loosehead Alec Hepburn is in line to make his England debut, having been named among the replacements.
Having been dropped in the autumn, Saracens forward George Kruis returns to the squad as second row cover on the bench, with Courtney Lawes starting on the blindside and Joe Launchbury and Maro Itoje the starting locks.
Leicester Tigers duo Dan Cole and Ben Youngs have been named to start, holding off the challenges of Harry Williams and Danny Care, both of whom are on the bench.
England team to play Italy: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Ben Te’o, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Jonny May, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs; 1 Mako Vunipola, 2 Dylan Hartley, 3 Dan Cole, 4 Joe Launchbury, 5 Maro Itoje, 6 Courtney Lawes, 7 Chris Robshaw, 8 Sam Simmonds.
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Harry Williams, 19 George Kruis, 20 Sam Underhill, 21 Danny Care, 22 Jonathan Joseph, 23 Jack Nowell.