England have named Jonathan Joseph at outside centre and demoted Sam Burgess to the bench for Saturday’s decisive World Cup clash with Australia at Twickenham.
Joseph has recovered from the pectoral muscle injury that ruled him out of the 28-25 defeat by Wales and will resume his partnership with Brad Barritt, who is restored to his more accustomed position in the number 12 jersey.
Owen Farrell has been retained at fly-half – George Ford continues on the bench – with Burgess set to reprise the role of second-half impact replacement that he played against Fiji.
Ben Morgan returns at number eight in one of two changes to the pack, taking the place of Billy Vunipola who has been ruled out of the remainder of the World Cup by a knee injury.
Morgan has recovered from his knee problem but an issue with the same joint has accounted for Courtney Lawes, who misses out with Joe Launchbury promoted from the bench to partner Geoff Parling in the second row. Scrum-half Ben Youngs, who excelled against Wales, has overcome his ankle injury and will be involved in a match England must win if they are to save their home World Cup from oblivion.
Nick Easter, Vunipola’s squad replacement, goes straight on to the bench so James Haskell is axed from the 23 altogether, while George Kruis provides second row cover. Former Leeds coach Stuart Lancaster admitted he faces a tenure-defining clash against Australia, but refused to accept he had looked past the weekend.
When asked if his entire time with England hangs on this week, Lancaster said: “I think that’s fair to say.
“It’s a must-win game because if we lose we don’t get out of the group. So there’s no point hiding where the accountability lies.
“As a head coach you don’t take the players beyond Saturday, you take them to Saturday.
“You put them in the right place to play a strong game on Saturday.
“There’s no denying it, the stakes are huge for us, but the boys will be ready.”
Wales’ 23-13 win over Fiji in Cardiff means England will be knocked out if they fail to win. Tries by Gareth Davies and Scott Baldwin – plus 13 points from fly-half Dan Biggar sealed it.