Ben Youngs and Jamie George will both hit major milestones for England when Eddie Jones’ men face Italy in Saturday’s Six Nations clash.
Scrum-half Youngs is set for his 100th cap, becoming the second-most capped England men’s player after Jason Leonard, while hooker George will make his 50th appearance.
Head coach Eddie Jones had handed Exeter Chiefs’ Jonny Hill his debut in the second row alongside Maro Itoje, with uncapped trio Tom Dunn, Ollie Lawrence and Ollie Thorley named among the replacements.
“We’ve got a really interesting squad, probably the most interesting squad I’ve had in my time as coach,” Jones told Sky Sports News.
“A good core of senior players and around 25 per cent of the squad are uncapped, some of them have played less than 20 club games.
“So there’s a real diversity in the squad and we’re looking forward to getting the squad to melt together and see where we can go with it.”
Youngs made his Test debut against Scotland back in 2010 and Jones insists the Leicester scrum-half hasn’t lost any of his desire to play for England.
“He’s a great team man. He loves playing for England, he gives it everything he’s got,” said Jones.
“He’s got a desire to keep wanting to get better and at his best he’s a great running half-back. We’re hopeful of seeing some of that on Saturday.”
Jones believes George could following in Youngs’ footsteps and also reach a century of Test caps, having spent the early years of his international career as understudy to Dylan Hartley.
“I think it’s a great testimony to being patient as a player,” added Jones.
“He was knocking on the door for selection when Dylan was starting and he kept at it. Since he has got his opportunity to start, he’s got better and better. There’s another 50 in him.”
Youngs and George will lead the team out in Rome this weekend as England go hunting for a bonus-point victory which they need to retain their hopes of lifting the Six Nations title.
In total, there are seven changes to the starting line-up from the team Jones fielded in England’s 33-30 win over Wales in their last Six Nations game pre-lockdown on March 7.
Injuries to Elliot Daly and George Ford mean George Furbank returns to the side at full-back, while captain Owen Farrell shifts from inside centre to fly-half.
That means Henry Slade comes into the starting XV alongside Jonathan Joseph, who replaces another injury victim in Manu Tuilagi – sent off against Wales – in midfield.
Jones goes into the match without a back-up fly-half among his replacements, with Wasps scrum-half Dan Robson the only other back in reserve for him to call on along with Worcester Warriors centre Lawrence and Gloucester winger Thorley.
In the pack, there are recalls for Mako Vunipola in the front row, and Sam Underhill and Billy Vunipola in the back row, and Billy Vunipola’s return means Tom Curry shifts from No. 8 to blindside flanker. Meanwhile, Bath hooker Dunn will hope to win his first cap backing up George.
“We’ve trained with good intensity this week and the squad are excited by the challenge of performing at our best against Italy,” Jones added.
Team to face Italy
England: 15 George Furbank; 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Henry Slade, 11 Jonny May; 10 Owen Farrell (c), Ben Youngs; 1 Mako Vunipola, 2 Jamie George, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 4 Maro Itoje, 5 Jonny Hill, 6 Tom Curry, 7 Sam Underhill, 8 Billy Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Tom Dunn, 17 Ellis Genge, 18 Will Stuart, 19 Charlie Ewels, 20 Ben Earl, 21 Dan Robson, 22 Ollie Lawrence, 23 Ollie Thorley.
Correction: (29/10/2020: 11:52am) – An earlier version of this article carried an image of Joe Marchant, which was incorrectly captioned as Ollie Lawrence. The image was incorrectly labelled by our picture suppliers, however Sky Sports takes full responsibility for the accuracy of imagery across our platforms. We apologise for publishing the mistake.