England v Italy: Owen Farrell warns opposition over Eddie Jones' backline

Joe Cokanasiga
Joe Cokanasiga will make his first Six Nations start against Italy
Six Nations: England v Italy
Venue: Twickenham, London Date: Saturday, 9 March Kick-off: 16:45 GMT
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Sport website and BBC Sport app, plus live text commentary online.

England captain Owen Farrell says he would not like to play against the giant backline head coach Eddie Jones is unleashing on Italy at Twickenham on Saturday.

Jones has picked the powerful pair of Manu Tuilagi and Ben Te'o in the centre, with Joe Cokanasiga making his first Six Nations start from the wing.

"It's massive - I wouldn't like to play against it," Farrell told BBC Sport.

"We need to make sure those boys get in the game."

Cokanasiga, 21, made his England debut in November, scoring tries against Japan and Australia.

He came off the bench at the end of England's defeat by Wales last time out, but has yet to start a championship match.

"He's massive, he's very quick, he's got brilliant skills and he's brilliant in the air," Farrell said of the 6ft 3in 18-stone back.

Head coach Jones added: "It's something different for us - over the last four years we have had fairly small backlines.

"We have everyone fit and available and it's an opportunity to play some big guys together."

Up front Ellis Genge starts alongside Jamie George and Kyle Sinckler in a front row Jones believes can carry ball "better than any other front row in the world".

Meanwhile, Jones has opted to combine Te'o and Tuilagi together for the first time from the start of a Test.

"He's a strong runner and that's one of my strengths as well," Te'o said. "Whoever they put me with, we can figure it out."

With Maro Itoje struggling with a knee problem, lock Launchbury starts alongside George Kruis, with Nathan Hughes providing bench cover.

Jones has resisted the temptation to start Dan Robson against the Azzurri, with Ben Youngs and Farrell continuing at half-back.

Parisse back for Italy side 'preparing to win'

Italy head coach Conor O'Shea has made three changes, with number eight Sergio Parisse back from a head injury to captain the side.

Sebastian Negri returns to the back row after recovering from an illness while hooker Luca Bigi is set to make his first start in the championship, replacing Leonardo Ghiraldini, who started in the 26-16 defeat by Ireland.

"This is an Italy team that's preparing to win. Everybody thinks we're delusional. But we're sports people, we're competitive people," O'Shea said.

"I've said to the players I don't want them to even think about the result, their job is to deliver a performance of intensity, physicality and ambition.

"I'll say ambition 20 times because I want them to go out and play. I'll take the flak for any results."

Italy, who are bottom of the standings, have never beaten England and have lost their last 20 matches in the competition.

"Italy is a bit of an unknown quantity but when Conor allows them to play rugby they play well," Jones added.

"They have played terrific games in the Six Nations. They are fitter, physically stay in the contest a lot longer and are quite unpredictable in the way they attack.

"We expect Italy to throw the ball around a bit so we are going to have to defend very well against their unpredictability and when we have got the ball, we have to use it wisely."

Line-ups

England team: Daly, Cokanasiga, Tuilagi, Te'o, May, Farrell (capt), Youngs; Genge, George, Sinckler, Launchbury, Kruis, Shields, Curry, Vunipola.

Replacements: Cowan-Dickie, Moon, Cole, Hughes, Wilson, Robson, Ford, Slade.

Italy team: Hayward, Padovani, Campagnaro, Morisi, Esposito, Allan, Tebaldi; Lovotti, Bigi, Ferrari, Ruzza, Budd, Negri, Steyn, Parisse (capt).

Replacements: Ghiraldini, Traore, Pasquali, Sisi, Polledri, Palazzani, McKinley, Castello.

Six Nations table

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