England name inexperienced back row for Six nations clash with Wales

England will enter a hostile Principality Stadium with a rookie back row after naming Jack Clifford in place of Tom Wood for Saturday's RBS 6 Nations clash against Wales.

Clifford has recovered from a chest injury to make his first international appearance since last summer's tour to Australia and is chosen ahead of the vastly more experienced Wood, who is demoted to the bench.

In the only other change to the starting XV that beat France 19-16 last Saturday, Jack Nowell is picked on the right wing in a move that sees Jonny May also relegated to a spot among the replacements.

The biggest talking point is in the back row, however, with England facing a potentially all-British and Irish Lions Welsh trio of Sam Warburton, Justin Tipuric and Taulupe Faletau with Clifford, Maro Itoje (pictured) and Nathan Hughes.

Wood, who has recovered from a shoulder injury, has 46 caps while Clifford, Itoje and Hughes have only four back-row starts between them.

"Jack Clifford also deserves his starting role. He is a hard-working, young player," head coach Eddie Jones said.

"He has got a good record against Wales, he had a superb game against them in May, he knows what he is going to expect from Wales and we're looking forward to him making an impact to our back-row play.

"Tom Wood will also play his part later in the game off the bench as a finisher."

Nowell made a significant impact when arriving as a second-half replacement against France, with a robust carry helping to set up the decisive try for Ben Te'o.

"Jack Nowell starts this week, with Jonny May changing to a finisher," Jones said. "Jack has an excellent work-rate and he's a guy that carries through the line, which will be important for us."

England made an unconvincing start to their Six Nations title defence, with only the arrival of a powerful bench sealing victory over France.

Jones accepted responsibility for what he described as an "awful" performance and has since been seeking explanations as to why Red Rose teams are "petrified" of playing in Cardiff.

"It's been a great week of focused preparation and we can't wait to play Wales," Jones said.

"Playing Wales in Cardiff is one of the biggest games in world rugby and we're excited. These are the games you want to be part of as a player and a coach.

"It's a game that is going to be decided on the basics of the game. You do the fundamentals of the game well and you win the game of rugby. We have a young team eager to play well at the great Principality Stadium.

"We don't need extra motivation this week - we play Test rugby because we want to be the best for England.

"Every game for us is important and our supporters, and Wales is our next game so it's the most important."

Related Articles

More in this Section

Cipriani disciplinary hearing sparks row between RFU and Gloucester

5 key talking points ahead of this weekend’s Premier League fixtures

Deontay Wilder posturing sees US heavyweight trade verbal blows with Tyson Fury

Cipriani facing disciplinary hearing following RFU charge

Today's Stories

Kicking the league when it’s down a mug’s game

If Limerick engineer the goal chances, Gillane won’t keep missing

John Kiely takes on the hype at its own game

The victors will be the worthiest All-Ireland champions in history. That’ll be Limerick.

More From The Irish Examiner