Italy v England - RBS Six Nations

Luther Burrell and Jonathan Joseph form a new-look midfield partnership as England recall four British & Irish Lions for Friday’s RBS 6 Nations opener against Wales at the Millennium Stadium (kick-off 8.05pm, live on BBC 1).

Dan Cole starts at tighthead prop while Leicester Tigers teammates Tom Youngs and Tom Croft, as well as Saracens loosehead Mako Vunipola, are included among the replacements.

All four played some part in England’s 30-3 defeat at the same venue two years ago and will be itching to set the record straight.

Cole comes in for David Wilson (Bath Rugby) to win a 46th cap in a pack showing four changes from the one that started the final 2014 QBE International against Australia.

Lock George Kruis (Saracens) and blindside flanker James Haskell (Wasps) replace injured Northampton Saints duo Tom Wood and Courtney Lawes, with Billy Vunipola (Saracens) taking over from Ben Morgan (Gloucester Rugby), who is recovering from a broken leg, at No 8.

Burrell (Northampton Saints) and Joseph (Bath Rugby) take up the centre berths in the only changes to the backs – Ben Youngs, George Ford, Jonny May, Anthony Watson and Mike Brown are all retained by Stuart Lancaster.


Nick Easter of Harlequins and Sale Sharks talisman Danny Cipriani are also rewarded for excellent club form with places on the bench.

Elsewhere, powerful Newcastle Falcons tighthead Kieran Brookes will look to continue a string of eye-catching cameos stretching back to his Test debut against New Zealand last June.

Richard Wigglesworth and Billy Twelvetrees stave off stiff competition to claim the final two spots, both boasting previous experience of the Cardiff atmosphere and composed game management.

England Head Coach Lancaster said: “We’ve had to make some tight calls but we are excited about the side selected for what will be a big challenge.

“JJ has been one of the form centres in the country. He and Luther have trained well together and this is a big opportunity for both of them.

“Billy Vunipola has also been playing well for Saracens and it’s good to be able to give George Kruis his first international start after his impressive run off the bench in November.

“Dan Cole and James Haskell bring a lot of experience, as do the bench, and their contribution will be crucial on Friday night.”

England match-day 23 to face Wales


15. Mike Brown (Harlequins, 33 caps)
14. Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby, 4 caps)
13. Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby, 6 caps)
12. Luther Burrell (Northampton Saints, 7 caps)
11. Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby, 11 caps)
10. George Ford (Bath Rugby, 6 caps)
9. Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 42 caps)

1. Joe Marler (Harlequins, 26 caps)
2. Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints, 61 caps)
3. Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers, 45 caps)
4. David Attwood (Bath Rugby, 16 caps)
5. George Kruis (Saracens, 4 caps)
6. James Haskell (Wasps, 53 caps)
7. Chris Robshaw (captain, Harlequins, 32 caps)
8. Billy Vunipola (Saracens, 12 caps)


16. Tom Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 17 caps)
17. Mako Vunipola (Saracens, 15 caps)
18. Kieran Brookes (Newcastle Falcons, 6 caps)
19. Tom Croft (Leicester Tigers, 38 caps)
20. Nick Easter (Harlequins, 47 caps)
21. Richard Wigglesworth (Saracens, 16 caps)
22. Danny Cipriani (Sale Sharks, 9 caps)
23. Billy Twelvetrees (Gloucester Rugby, 16 caps)