Billy Vunipola back for tourists in first Test against SA
England lock Joe Launchbury lost his race to be fit for the first Test against SA on Saturday as coach Eddie Jones again named Mike Brown on the wing.
Jones kept the positional switch he made for May’s 63-45 loss to the Barbarians at Twickenham when he swapped Elliot Daly from the leftwing to fullback and stuck Brown out onto the wing.
Launchbury had trained apart from the rest of the squad at Umhlanga this week as he battled with a calf problem and will have his place taken in the second row by Nick Isiekwe, who gets his first start for England. Isiekwe is one of six players from Premiership winners Saracens in the starting line-up.
Kyle Sinckler got the nod over Harry Williams at tight head in place of Dan Cole, who has been rested for the tour, while Tom Curry was chosen on the openside of the scrum for only his second cap.
Billy Vunipola returns after more than a year without international rugby. There had been concern in the England camp over Vunipola’s latest injury — a persistent hamstring problem he had been playing through in recent weeks for Saracens — but he has been selected to add to his tally of 34 caps.
Uncapped New Zealand-born loose forward Brad Shields is likely to get a first cap off the bench even though his selection has sparked controversy.
World Rugby vice-chairman Augustin Pichot is among those who have been critical of rugby’s eligibility rules, which allow athletes such as Shields to qualify to play for Jones’s team through his English-born parents.
"We have had a really good week in preparation for this weekend and we are pleased with the way the squad has come together," said Jones, who has opted to train in sunnier climes on the tropical east coast of SA and only travel up to high altitude Johannesburg on the eve of the Test.
"We want to do something special on this tour and the players are all incredibly excited about this challenge and opportunity we have."