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England and Wales make changes for Championship decider

England and Wales have both named their teams for Saturday’s Six Nations title decider at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, with both sides making changes following their victories last weekend.

England, who are bidding for a first Grand Slam since 2003, have made four changes to the side that beat Italy, with Stuart Lancaster bringing in his preferred half back duo and elevating Tom Croft to the starting XV along with Joe Marler.

Wales have made just two changes, with Justin Tipuric coming in for the injured Ryan Jones. Tipuric starts at seven with Sam Warburton moving to the blinside. Controversially, in the absence of Jones the captaincy has been given to the returning Gethin Jenkins rather than regular captain Sam Warburton.

Wales, who will win the championship if they defeat England by eight points or more or if they win by seven and maintain their superior try count, will be looking to their experienced players to help guide them to the championship and with three Grand Slams in the last eight years there is no shortage of know how.

Jenkins then comes in for Paul James at loosehead, he joins Richard Hibbard and Adam Jones in the front row opposite Joe Marler, who replaces Mako Vunipola, Tom Youngs and Dan Cole.

In the second row for England Joe Launcbury has been declared fit, he starts alongside Geoff Parling with Wales retaining Alun Wyn Jones and Ian Evans.

The back row provides probably the most interesting area of discussion, Wales switch Warburton to blindside with Tipuric open and Faletau between them, England meanwhile keep Chris Robshaw at 7 with Tom Wood at eight, while Tom Croft replaces James Haskell at 6. It will be Croft’s first start for a year as he continues his remarkable return from a broken neck.

It is as you were for Wales at half back with Mike Phillips and Dan Biggar, it is all change for England though with Danny Care and Toby Flood back on the bench. Ben Youngs starts at scrum half with fit again Owen Farrell at fly half.

Brad Barritt and Manu Tuilagi start in the centres opposite Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies, in what promises to be one of the most bruising areas of the game, on the wings Chris Ashton retains his England space despite some mild speculation, he partners Mike Brown who will be opposite Alex Cuthbert for Wales, while Ashton must deal with the formidable force that is George North.

Alex Goode continues his run at full back for England, he will face Leigh Halfpenny who will be looking to continue his rich vein of form so far this tournament.

Speaking about the return of Tom Croft, England’s head coach Stuart Lancaster said:

“Tom Croft’s extra line-out presence will hopefully give us an advantage, he is clearly a quality player and he has had a great impact since he has come back into the team. James Haskell’s impact coming off the bench will serve us better.”

Wales’ interim head coach, Rob Howley, described the decision to hand Jenkins the captaincy rather than Warburton as a ‘mutual decision’ and said:

“Gethin comes back in and will captain the side and his leadership will be invaluable.”

Teams

Wales

15. Leigh Halfpenny 14. Alex Cuthbert 13. Jonathan Davies 12. Jamie Roberts 11. George North 10. Dan Biggar 9. Mike Phillips; 1. Gethin Jenkins (c) 2. Richard Hibbard 3. Adam Jones 4. Alun Wyn Jones 5. Ian Evans 6. Sam Warburton 7. Justin Tipuric 8. Toby Faletau.

Replacements: 16. Ken Owens 17. Paul James 18. Scott Andrews 19. Andrew Coombs 20. Aaron Shingler 21. Lloyd Williams 22. James Hook 23. Scott Williams.

England

15. Alex Goode 14. Chris Ashton 13. Manu Tuilagi 12. Brad Barritt 11. Mike Brown 10. Owen Farrell 9. Ben Youngs; 1. Joe Marler 2. Tom Youngs 3. Dan Cole 4. Joe Launchbury 5. Geoff Parling 6. Tom Croft 7. Chris Robshaw (c) 8. Tom Wood.

Replacements: 16. Dylan Hartley 17. David Wilson 18. Mako Vunipola 19. Courtney Lawes 20. James Haskell 21. Danny Care 22. Toby Flood 23. Billy Twelvetrees.

Referee Steve Walsh (Australia)

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