Ireland v England: Manu Tuilagi starts in Six Nations opener

Manu Tuilagi
Tuilagi was a 68th minute replacement for Henry Slade in the autumn win over Australia
Six Nations 2019: Ireland v England
Venue: Aviva Stadium, Dublin Date: Saturday 2 February Kick-off: 16:45 GMT
Coverage: Live on BBC Radio 5 live and Radio Ulster, plus live text commentary & highlights on the BBC Sport website.

Centre Manu Tuilagi will make his first Six Nations start since 2013 in the England team to face defending champions Ireland on Saturday.

The 27-year-old, who has suffered a string of injuries over the past few seasons, starts at 12 in the absence of injured Ben Te'o.

Elliot Daly is preferred at full-back to Mike Brown, who is left out of the 23-strong matchday squad.

George Kruis partners fellow Saracen Maro Itoje in the second row.

Owen Farrell starts at fly-half, with Henry Slade partnering Tuilagi in midfield and George Ford on the bench, while flankers Tom Curry and Mark Wilson make their first Six Nations appearances.

England have lost on six of their last seven Six Nations visits to Dublin, with a 12-6 victory in 2013 their most recent success.

Ireland, who beat world champions New Zealand in November, are ranked second in the world, two places higher than their visitors.

"It is well documented no-one thinks we can win," head coach Eddie Jones said. "But I can tell you everyone inside our camp believes we can win. We are hugely looking forward to the weekend."

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'Impressive' Tuilagi returns

Tuilagi has made only two replacement appearances for England since starting England's defeat by New Zealand in Hamilton in June 2014.

During that time, he has been sidelined with chest, knee and hip problems, but has made an impressive return for Leicester this season, scoring six tries in 14 appearances for the Tigers, and gives England a powerful ball-carrying option in midfield.

"I just felt for this game the best option was to play Owen Farrell at 10 and Manu as a like-for-like replacement for Ben Te'o," Jones said.

"Manu has impressed us at the training camp, and is right to play."

Manu Tuilagi
Tuilagi's 14 appearances for Leicester this campaign are more than he managed in any one of his previous four seasons

England target breakdown and aerial contest

Ireland's aerial game has been a feature of their rise to second in the world rankings and England have been stung before with Robbie Henshaw scoring the only try of the 2015 meeting after claiming a kick over the head of full-back Alex Goode.

Jones said his side are well aware of the dangers, despite the selection of Daly over specialist 15 Brown.

"I think it is quite clear to beat Ireland you have to beat them in the contest area. They are very good at the breakdown and in the air," he added.

"Both those areas are a priority for us.

"Browny is a great player and we are always looking at how we can improve the team but, at the moment, we believe that Elliot is the best 15 for us. He can do the job for us and gives us a great attacking game."

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BBC rugby union correspondent Chris Jones:

The injury to Ben Te'o has opened the door for Manu Tuilagi to make his return as a like-for-like replacement at number 12, even though Eddie Jones has previously said that he only views Tuilagi as an outside centre.

Perhaps the more contentious call is the selection of Elliot Daly at full-back. He will be subjected to a barrage of high balls at the Aviva Stadium, but has been preferred to Mike Brown.

George Kruis will run the line-out after being picked ahead of Joe Launchbury. The England camp are expecting a brutal Test match in Dublin.

England team to face Ireland:

Daly; May, Slade, Tuilagi, Nowell; Farrell, B Youngs; M Vunipola, George, Sinckler, Itoje, Kruis, Wilson, T Curry, B Vunipola.

Replacements: Cowan-Dickie, Genge, Williams, Lawes, Hughes, Robson, Ford, Ashton

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