England head coach Eddie Jones has named his side to play against Italy on Friday at St James’ Park in Newcastle.
A mix and match selection strategy sees Joe Marchant named at outside centre with Piers Francis at inside centre. Owen Farrell, who captains the team, starts at fly half while debutant Ruaridh McConnochie is named on the right wing with Anthony Watson at fullback.
Dan Cole starts alongside Jamie George and Joe Marler in the front row with Joe Launchbury and Courtney Lawes named as the lock pairing. Mark Wilson will start at openside flanker with Tom Curry and Billy Vunipola making up the rest of the back row.
Jones said: “We are delighted to be playing against Italy, one of our traditional Six Nations rivals and the game for us is another important step to develop our game fitness and game strategy. We have gone with a mix and match selection policy to develop our adaptability and the team’s ability to cope with any situation.
“We have had a solid training week in Treviso with hot conditions so we are looking forward to testing ourselves against Italy on Friday night. Then we hop on the plane and are ready to go to Japan.”
This is the first England Test match to be played at St James’ Park in Newcastle which hosted three Rugby World Cup fixtures in 2015.
Jones added: “We are excited to be playing in Newcastle. We are playing at an iconic football ground and we know the area is an important one for rugby in the northern part of England. We are looking forward to seeing and playing in front of the fans.”