Six Nations

Six Nations Championship 2016

Rising star Maro Itoje to make first England start in Six Nations clash with Ireland

Saracens lock impressed coach Eddie Jones with powerful display off the bench against Italy

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 February, 2016, 8:10pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 February, 2016, 9:46pm

Saracens lock Maro Itoje will make his first England start after being named in coach Eddie Jones’ run-on side to face Ireland in the Six Nations at Twickenham on Saturday.

The 21-year-old came into the starting 15, having made his debut off the bench in England’s 40-9 win over Italy, after Joe Launchbury was ruled out with a hamstring problem.

Playing our first game at Twickenham after two away fixtures will be huge for us
England coach Eddie Jones

Courtney Lawes, who started against Italy with Launchbury on the bench, is now among the replacements after being added to the squad following the Wasps’ second-row injury.

The only other change to the England side that kicked-off the match in Rome last time out sees Harlequins loose-head prop Joe Marler replace Mako Vunipola.

Itoje impressed against the Azzurri after coming on with a powerful display in the closing 28 minutes that saw England run in several tries against a tiring defence.

On that occasion, he replaced Chris Robshaw at blindside flanker but Itoje has spent most of his career at lock – the position where he captained England to victory during the 2014 IRB Junior World Championship.

Behind the scrum, highly-regarded uncapped Wasps centre Elliot Daly is on the bench after concussion ruled out midfield rival Ollie Devoto.

“Elliot Daly has worked hard this week and is now ready for a place in the 23. He can provide cover in several positions in the backline,” Jones said.

“Joe Marler made a big impact off the bench in Rome and will start at loose head with Mako Vunipola finishing the game,” he added.

England have won their first two matches under Jones, beginning with a victory away to Scotland, and currently top the Six Nations table on points difference from France, who play Wales in Cardiff on Friday.

Saturday’s match against defending Six Nations champions Ireland will be England’s first at Twickenham since a 33-13 defeat by Australia in October saw them become the first host nation to be knocked out of the Rugby World Cup at the initial group stage.

Ireland, beset by injuries, have yet to win in this Six Nations Championship after drawing with Wales 16-16 and losing 10-9 to France last time out.

Nevertheless, the Irish are still set to provide England with their toughest test yet under Jones and the Australian said: “Playing our first game at Twickenham after two away fixtures will be huge for us.

“We’re determined to put in a strong performance against a clever Irish side who are the benchmark of European rugby,” he added.

England squad: Mike Brown; Anthony Watson, Jonathan Joseph, Owen Farrell, Jack Nowell; George Ford, Ben Youngs; Billy Vunipola, James Haskell, Chris Robshaw; George Kruis, Maro Itoje; Dan Cole, Dylan Hartley (c), Joe Marler

Replacements: Jamie George, Mako Vunipola, Paul Hill, Courtney Lawes, Jack Clifford, Danny Care, Elliot Daly, Alex Goode