England bench Smith for Tonga clash
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: England captain Owen Farrell will start at flyhalf when he leads the side in their November series opener against Tonga at Twickenham on Saturday.
Eddie Jones, the England coach, had indicated he wanted to field rising star Marcus Smith at No.10.
But twice-capped Smith, who guided Harlequins to the Premiership title last season, suffered a leg injury in England training this week, although he has been ruled fit to provide bench cover for Farrell, who can also play at centre.
Veteran Australian coach Jones has opted for a midfield trio of Farrell, Manu Tuilagi and Henry Slade to play the Pacific islanders this weekend.
Jones briefly delayed naming his team to play Tonga on Thursday after a member of his backroom staff tested positive for Covid-19.
All England players and management have undergone additional lateral flow tests and there have been no further positives, while the squad await the outcome of PCR testing.
Following the Tonga clash, England are at home to Australia on November 13 before they face South Africa – the team that beat Jones’ men in the 2019 World Cup final – at Twickenham in their concluding Test of the year on November 20.
England: 15 Freddie Steward, 14 Adam Radwan, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Manu Tuilagi, 11 Jonny May, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Tom Curry, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 Jonny Hill, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Jamie George, 1 Ellis Genge.
Replacements: 16 Jamie Blamire, 17 Joe Marler, 18 Will Stuart, 19 Charlie Ewels, 20 Alex Dombrandt, 21 Alex Mitchell, 22 Marcus Smith, 23 George Furbank.
Date: Saturday. November 6
Venue: Twickenham Stadium, London
Kick-off: 15.15 (15.15 GMT; 04.15 TOT Sunday, November 7)
Referee: Craig Evans (Wales)
Assistant referees: Adam Jones (Wales), Andrea Piardi (Italy)
TMO: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)