Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Hartley Starts on Bench as George Gets the Jones Nod

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Hartley Starts on Bench as George Gets the Jones Nod

Article excerpt

Byline: Will Macpherson

JAMIE GEORGE will start at hooker ahead of England's co-captain Dylan Hartley and Manu Tuilagi is on the bench for England's final match of the year, against Australia on Saturday.

Head coach Eddie Jones has backed George from the start after he was sin-binned against Japan last week, while Tuilagi has recovered from a groin strain and is due to play his first Test rugby since the 2016 Six Nations.

Hartley is still named as co-captain alongside Owen Farrell but has been given the role of closing the game out as one of Jones's "finishers".

Joe Cokanasiga is selected to start on the right wing after injuries to Jack Nowell (hamstring) and Chris Ashton (calf), while Courtney Lawes shifts to the second row and Nathan Hughes takes a place on the bench. Farrell returns at fly-half in place of George Ford, who captained the side against Japan last week.

Joining Hartley on the bench is Tuilagi. Jones's public pronouncements on the Leicester centre's chances of playing have been consistently cautious and only on Monday he declared him "very doubtful" to face Australia. He has consistently reiterated that Tuilagi must be "100 per cent" fit to take a place in the squad.

Tuilagi has played 17 minutes of Test rugby since June 2014, which was when he last started for England. This month, he has been beset by groin trouble, having originally been named on the bench for the autumn opener against South Africa. The injury that ruled him out then -- and opened the door for an impressive international return for Ashton, who also had four years in the wilderness -- was said to be very minor, but has rumbled on.

Tuilagi yesterday had his own tailored warm-up session, but joined the rest of the backs later on in a bid to prove his fitness. Piers Francis, the Northampton centre, remained with the squad as cover, but was set to miss out on a place in the 23, along with the injured Nowell and uncapped Elliott Stooke.

Cokanasiga, 21, made a try-scoring debut against Japan at Twickenham last week but was seen as unlikely to start until injury struck. …

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