England shuffles backline for RWC quarterfinal vs Australia
OITA, Japan (AP) — Owen Farrell has moved to flyhalf to replace George Ford and Henry Slade has been drafted into a reworked midfield combination with Manu Tuilangi among three changes to England's XV to play Australia in the Rugby World Cup quarterfinals on Saturday.
Mako Vunipola will return at loosehead in place of Joe Marler, and Courtney Lawes will start in the second row at the expense of George Kruis. Ford, Marler and Kruis were all included on the eight-man reserves bench.
Vunipola has recovered from a hamstring strain and will make his first start of the tournament. Billy Vunipola has overcome an ankle injury and will start at No. 8.
Farrell's shift from 12 to 10 and Tuilanga's move from outside to inside center to create a spot for Slade was done with defense in mind.
"Australia are a clever team, they will have some specific attacking strategies to play against us so we need to have a great situational awareness," head coach Eddie Jones said. "We need to defend with brutality, and when we have the ball we need play on top of them."
The England XV contains 10 players who started in the 37-18 win over Australia last November.
The winner at Oita on Saturday will play either defending champion New Zealand or Ireland in the semifinals.
England is aiming to make amends for failing to reach the knockout stage when it hosted the tournament in 2015, when losses to Australia and Wales in the pool phase were costly. Two-time champion Australia lost the final to New Zealand.
England topped Pool C with wins over Tonga, the United States and Argentina, but it's last scheduled game against three-time finalist France was canceled last weekend because of Typhoon Hagibas. Australia placed second in Pool D after a narrow loss to Six Nations champion Wales.
"Once you get to the quarterfinals it's about having the right mindset," said Jones, who guided Australia to the 2003 World Cup final, where the Wallabies lost in extra time to England. "We know how well we can play, it's about us playing to our strengths and trying to take away from what Australia want."
Jonny May, who has scored a try in each of his last two tests against Australia, will start on the left wing and will earn his 50th test cap.
England: Elliot Daly, Anthony Watson, Henry Slade, Manu Tuilagi, Jonny May, Owen Farrell (captain), Ben Youngs; Billy Vunipola, Sam Underhill, Tom Curry, Courtney Lawes, Maro Itoje, Kyle Sinckler, Jamie George, Mako Vunipola. Reserves: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Joe Marler, Dan Cole, George Kruis, Lewis Ludlam, Willi Heinz, George Ford, Jonathan Joseph.