‘We’ve lost 400 caps… that experience is hard to replace’: Eddie Jones bemoans England injury crisis as new look side train for South Africa clash
- England begin their autumn internationals against South Africa on Saturday
- Alec Hepburn makes his first start at prop in a new-look side for Eddie Jones
- Jones is without likes of Billy Vunipola, his brother Mako, and Courtney Lawes
Eddie Jones has highlighted the damage caused by England’s injury crisis as Dylan Hartley and Co went through their final preparations for Saturday’s showdown with South Africa.
England begin their autumn international series against the Springboks at Twickenham before facing Japan, New Zealand and Australia later this month.
Jones has named a new-look side for Saturday’s clash, with Alec Hepburn making his first start in the wake of injuries to the likes of Mako Vunipola, his brother Billy and Courtney Lawes.
Owen Farrell will start at fly-half for England in their opening autumn Test against South Africa
Head coach Eddie Jones has been hit by injuries to a number of key players ahead of the series
Scrum-half Ben Youngs passes the ball from the back of the ruck during training on Thursday
ENGLAND XV TO FACE SOUTH AFRICA
E Daly (Wasps); J Nowell (Exeter), H Slade (Exeter), B Te’o (Worcester), J May (Leicester); O Farrell (Saracens. Co-capt), B Youngs (Leicester); A Hepburn (Exeter), D Hartley (Northampton. Co-capt), K Sinckler (Harlequins); M Itoje (Saracens), G Kruis (Saracens); B Shields (Wasps), M Wilson (Newcastle), T Curry (Sale).
REPLACEMENTS: J George (Saracens), B Moon (Exeter), H Williams (Exeter), C Ewels (Bath), Z Mercer (Bath), D Care (Harlequins), G Ford (Leicester), M Tuilagi (Leicester).
But the England coach is confident his squad retains sufficient depth despite the growing list of absentees.
‘We’ve lost 400 caps with the loss of the Vunipola brothers, Joe Launchbury and Courtney Lawes so that experience is hard to replace,’ Jones admitted.
‘But we’ve still managed to name a very strong bench of finishers with Jamie George and Danny Care who are outstanding players and they will lead the final charge.’
Jones put his squad through their paces on Thursday as the countdown continues to Saturday’s clash with the Springboks.
In the pack Hepburn comes in for Vunipola at loosehead prop, making his first England start and winning his third cap.
Farrell and Ben Te’o, who starts at No 12 against the Springboks, go through a physical drill
Brad Shields and Tom Curry, who will start in the pack on Saturday, are put through their paces
‘It was a really tight decision between him and Ben Moon, but the two of them will do a great job for the 80 minutes,’ said Jones. ‘Alec is a very vigorous player, good ball carrier, great chop tackler and plays with a high work rate.’
Jack Nowell was also named in the starting XV for the first time in nine months after he missed the summer tour in South Africa through injury.
But returning centre Manu Tuilagi has to settle for a place on the bench, while Chris Ashton missed out on the 23 altogether.
‘Jack is another work rate player, he has an incredible ability to find the ball and has great feet,’ Jones added.
Wing Jack Nowell, here training alongside Jonny May, also makes his return to the starting XV
Brothers Mako (left) and Billy Vunipola (right) are among the names missing through injury
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