Itoje handed first England start

England's Maro Itoje

Maro Itoje impressed with a powerful second-half display on debut against Italy

Saracens forward Maro Itoje will make his first start for England in the Six Nations game against Ireland at Twickenham on Saturday.

Itoje, 21, made his senior debut in the 40-9 defeat of Italy, coming off the bench to play blindside flanker.

But he now replaces the injured Joe Launchbury at lock in the second row, ahead of the recalled Courtney Lawes.

Prop Joe Marler replaces Mako Vunipola in the only other change from the team that started in Rome.


England starting XV v Ireland

England are chasing a first Six Nations title since 2011 and a first Grand Slam since 2003.

Going into the weekend’s fixtures, Jones’ side lead the table on points difference from France, with both teams having won their first two games.

Ireland have made a disappointing start to their defence of the title and sit fourth after a draw with Wales and defeat to France.


BBC Sport’s chief sports writer Tom Fordyce:

“Itoje has been so highly rated for so long that some of his new England team-mates have started calling him ‘the chosen one’, but this is as much about genuine hope than hype.

“Having started at the same Hertfordshire school as Owen Farrell and George Ford before finishing at the same one as Billy Vunipola, he has been compared to both Martin Johnson and Paul O’Connell by England’s defence coach Paul Gustard.

“Those may seem lofty comparisons. But there is sound logic there – Itoje is 21 years old as he makes his first international start, while those two second-row legends made their own debuts at 22, and at 6ft 5ins and 18st 7lbs, he is physically comparable to O’Connell’s 6ft 6ins and 17st 8lbs.

“England supporters should be patient. Johnson’s defining moment, at the 2003 World Cup, came 10 years on from his debut, while O’Connell’s – captaining the Lions, leading Ireland to the Grand Slam – came seven years after his own.

“But Itoje has excelled in every age group and competition he has been thrown into, his power, dynamism and leadership setting him apart. This could be the start of something special.”

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