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England vs Tonga: Marcus Smith and Alex Dombrandt on the bench; Manu Tuilagi to make international return

England face the South Sea islanders, Australia and South Africa over the next three weekends as part of the series, with head coach Eddie Jones looking to rebuild his team for the World Cup in France in two years’ time.

Smith was one of a number of players blooded by Jones in the summer internationals against USA and Canada, and he immediately received a call-up to the Lions tour of South Africa, following a stunning season in Harlequins’ Premiership-winning side.

He is considered a central part of that rebuild, but his week has been disrupted by a knock, and he only made the bench, with Owen Farrell captaining the side from fly-half in an experienced midfield, alongside Manu Tuilagi and Henry Slade.

There is no place for Smith’s great mate and Quins colleague Dombrandt in the starting XV, with Tom Curry named at No8 in an experienced back row, alongside Courtney Lawes and Sam Underhill. Curry, who emerged as a flanker, has four starts for England at No8, but none since March 2020.

However young full-back Freddie Steward was passed fit to start and goes into an electric back three with Jonny May and Adam Radwan.

England’s team announcement was disrupted when they revealed that a member of backroom staff recorded a positive lateral flow test for Covid.

They were placed in isolation, with the remainder of the squad undergoing lateral flow (all negative) and PCR tests before the squad was named. The team’s training session moved from the morning to the afternoon.

Jones said: “We’ve had two good preparation camps in Jersey and Pennyhill Park, worked really hard and we’re ready for a tough, physical game.

“We respect Tonga greatly and we know that with props like Siegfried Fisi’ihoi and Ben Tameifuna we are going to have to go in the front door before the back door.



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