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England make 5 changes for Italy clash

Stuart Lancaster has announced his England team to face Italy on Sunday and has made five changes to the starting fifteen from the side that took to the field against France two weeks ago.

Mako Vunipola and Tom Youngs come into the front row in place of Joe Marler and Dylan Hartley who both drop to the bench where they will join Bath’s David Wilson as front row replacements.

It will be Vunipola’s first ever start for England, earned after a series of impressive displays form the bench since his debut in the autumn.

It had been thought that Mako Vunipola’s brother, Billy, would be named among the substitutes after a series of media performances this week, but he is not in the 23, meaning that Ben and Tom Youngs remain the only brothers in the side for now.

Dan Cole retains his place at prop, with Joe Launchbury and Geoff Parling keeping their positions behind him. Chris Robshaw and Tom Wood remain and seven and eight but James Haskell comes into the side at blindside flanker in place of Courtney Lawes.

Lawes drops down to the bench where he will act as replacement second row, with Tom Croft back in the squad, covering the back row. It will be Croft’s first international appearance since last Six Nations after he suffered an horrific neck injury that left him almost paralysed.

Since the turn of the year though he has been back in the thick of things for Leicester, and after some good performances of late, including a man of the match performance last week, he returns to the fold much to the joy and relief of the England staff, players and supporters.

It is all change in the half backs, Danny Care replaces Ben Youngs at scrum half, Care is rewarded for his good form off the bench with a first start of the tournament, while Youngs slots into his place on the bench.

Outside of Care, Toby Flood comes in for Owen Farrell who has yet to recover from his thigh injury that he sustained against France. The absence of Farrell also means a return to England duty for Freddie Burns after his first cap in the autumn against New Zealand; he will be on the bench again on Sunday.

It is as you were in the centres too, Brad Barritt and Manu Tuilagi start, while Billy Twelvetrees remains on the bench. Alex Goode and Mike Brown retain their places at full back and on the wing, as does Chris Ashton on the other wing despite calls from some for him to be dropped.

Italy have meanwhile made seven changes from their side that lost to Wales two weeks ago, the most high profile of which is the return of their talisman and captain Sergio Parisse after he successfully appealed against the length of his ban after his red card for Stade Francais.

Also coming into the side is openside flanker Robert Barbieri alongside Parisse, while ahead of them in the second row it is all change with Quintin Geldenhuys and Joshua Furno both coming in.

Alberto De Marchi replaces Andrea Lo Cicero at loosehead while Luciano Orquera returns at fly half in place of Kris Burton who is out of the squad completely. Gonzalo Garcia’s return to the centres completes their changes.

England:

15. Alex Goode 14. Chris Ashton 13. Manu Tuilagi 12. Brad Barritt 11. Mike Brown 10. Toby Flood 9. Danny Care; 1. Mako Vunipola 2. Tom Youngs 3. Dan Cole 4. Joe Launchbury 5. Geoff Parling 6. James Haskell 7. Chris Robshaw (c) 8. Tom Wood.

Replacements: 16. Dylan Hartley 17. David Wilson 18. Joe Marler 19. Courtney Lawes 20. Tom Croft 21. Ben Youngs 22. Freddie Burns 23. Billy Twelvetrees.

Italy:

15. Andrea Masi 14. Giovanbattista Venditti 13. Gonzalo Canale 12. Gonzalo Garcia 11. Luke Mclean 10. Luciano Orquera 9.Edoardo Gori; 8. Sergio Parisse (c) 7. Robert Barbieri 6. Alessandro Zanni 5. Joshua Furno 4. Quintin Geldenhuys 3. Martin Castrogiovanni 2. Leonardo Ghiraldini 1. Alberto De Marchi.

Replacements: 16. Davide Giazzon 17. Andrea Lo Cicero 18. Lorenzo Cittadini 19. Antonio Pavanello 20. Francesco Minto 21. Simone Favaro 22. Tobias Botes 23. Tommaso Benvenuti.

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