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Youngs, Lawes and Vunipola start for England against Italy

Ben Youngs, Mako Vunipola and Courtney Lawes will return to England’s starting team to play Italy in the Six Nations in Rome tomorrow while giant 21-year-old lock Maro Itoje is in line to make his debut from the bench.

After beating Scotland 15-9 in Edinburgh in his first game in charge last week, coach Eddie Jones yesterday promoted scrumhalf Youngs, lock Lawes and prop Vunipola to the starting team after all impressed as replacements at Murrayfield.

Danny Care, Joe Launchbury and Joe Marler were dropped to the bench, joining the uncapped Itoje, England’s former Under-20 captain, as Jones opted for six forwards and two backs as his replacements.

“Mako, Ben and Courtney have been pushing hard for selection during training, but they also fit the game plan we want to implement against Italy,” Jones said.

The most eye-catching selection, however, is that of Itoje, who has been knocking at the international door after a series of impressive performances for Saracens.

England’s new defence coach Paul Gustard said this week that Itoje, who is 6ft 5ins and weighs over 18 stone, had the potential to be the next Martin Johnson.

“He’s massive, he’s athletic, he’s mobile, he’s a modern-day forward that can play in the second row or back row at test level I’d imagine,” Gustard said.

Jones is likely to give him a first taste of test action off the bench after resisting the clamour to include him against Scotland.

“Maro has impressed me this week and, together with his excellent club form, has deserved his call-up to the match day squad,” said the Australian.

After getting his regime off to a steady start in Scotland, Jones, in a rare proclamation of bullish confidence by a coach, said it was time for England to give Italy a good hiding.

England have won all 21 of the teams’ previous encounters and though they have had one or two tight ones, they were thumping 47-17 winners at Twickenham last year and triumphed 52-11 on their last visit to Rome in 2014.

“We are confident we can go to Rome and win, but we’re in no doubt of the challenge we face,” Jones said.

“Italy took France very close last weekend in Paris so they’ll be fired up on Sunday (tomorrow).”

Playing today

France vs Ireland 15.25

Wales vs Scotland 17.50

Tomorrow

Italy vs England15.00

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