England have promoted Courtney Lawes, Mako Vunipola, and Ben Youngs to their starting XV for tomorrow’s Six Nations clash with Italy.
Lawes replaces Joe Launchbury in the second row, Vunipola has been chosen ahead of Joe Marler at loosehead prop, and Youngs is preferred to Danny Care at scrum-half for the trip to the Stadio Olimpico.
All three of the demoted players drop to the replacements, which also include uncapped lock Itoje.
The likely debut of Itoje is the biggest source of excitement in the England camp this weekend, as the 21-year-old is a second row of vast potential who has been making headlines at Saracens due to his athleticism and power.
“Maro has consistently impressed me this week and, together with his excellent club form, has deserved his call up to the matchday squad,” said Jones.
Jones, whose father owned a pink Vauxhall Viva, used a motoring analogy to describe the transformation he wants to see from Itoje.
“Maro is a young kid who has a good head on his shoulders,” said Jones.
“He’s like a Vauxhall Viva now, we want to make him into a BMW. He’s got a lot of work to do, but he’s got potential.”
When asked if Itoje will get some miles on the clock on Sunday, Jones replied: “It’s a possibility.”
To accommodate the addition of Itoje, who has been in outstanding form for Saracens this season, head coach Eddie Jones has opted for a six-two split on the bench with centre Ollie Devoto dropping out.
“We’ve made a few changes to the line-up for Italy. I believe this is the strongest 23 to go to Rome and get the performance and result we want.” said Jones.
“Mako, Ben, and Courtney have been pushing hard for selection during training, but they also fit the game plan we want to implement against Italy.
“Danny, Joe Marler, and Joe Launchbury will all have a significant role to play to finish the game.”
Italy were edged 23-21 by France in Paris last Saturday and while Jones has called for England to give the Azzurri a “good hiding”, he is also refusing to underestimate them.
“We are confident we can go to Rome and win, but we’re in no doubt of the challenge we face. Italy took France very close so they’ll be fired up,” said Jones.
“It has been an intense week of training and I am pleased with how the group have responded to some of the things we’ve asked them to do.”
Italy head coach Jacques Brunel has challenged his team to stay in touch and go for glory in the final 10 minutes.
After suffering a narrow defeat to France in Paris last weekend, Italy are preparing for a typically English performance in Rome, regardless of the influence of the visitors’ new Australian coach Jones.
Brunel has made one change ahead of the Six Nations tussle, with fly-half Luke McLean replacing the injured David Odiete. Lock George Biagi has recovered from a thigh injury and will start.
Brunel said: “We have never beaten England and on Sunday we don’t start as favourites. But our challenge, our ambition, must be to stay in touch on the scoreboard for 70 minutes. If we do that, anything could happen.”