England v New Zealand: George Ford recalled for Rugby World Cup semi-final

By Tom FordyceChief sports writer in Tokyo
George Ford and Owen Farrell
George Ford (right) is back in the starting line-up after coming off the bench in the last-eight win over the Wallabies
Rugby World Cup semi-final: England v New Zealand
Venue: International Stadium, Yokohama Date: Saturday, 26 October Kick-off: 09:00 BST
Coverage: Full commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live, plus text updates on the BBC Sport website and app.

England have recalled George Ford at fly-half for their World Cup semi-final against New Zealand, with captain Owen Farrell shifting to inside centre.

Coach Eddie Jones dropped Ford to the bench for the quarter-final win over Australia.

But for England's biggest game in 12 years he has reunited the 10-12 combination that saw England past Tonga, USA and Argentina in the group stages.

Henry Slade makes way in the backs with Manu Tuilagi moving to outside centre in his place, while winger Jonny May has been declared fit after an injury scare against the Wallabies last weekend.

Jones said: "It's the two heavyweights of world rugby - one dressed in black, the crowd favourite, the nation's favourite, the other in white, probably the most disliked team in the world.

"We just feel that [Ford and Farrell] is the best combination for the start of the game.

"New Zealand play a certain way, and George's work-rate off the ball is going to be super-important for us.

Eddie Jones
Jones has beaten New Zealand in the semi-final of a Rugby World Cup before, pulling off a shock win in the 2003 tournament with his native Australia

"They bring a tactical awareness - when you play New Zealand you have to be practically very smart, and George and Owen together are probably at the forefront in that area in the world.

"New Zealand are a great team. They have an impressive winning record since the last World Cup.

"Like any good team, you have to take time and space away from them and you have to find areas you can pressure them - we believe we have identified a number of areas where we can do that."

Billy Vunipola wins his 50th cap in the back row as Jones keeps faith with his young flankers in Tom Curry and Sam Underhill, but utility back Jack Nowell has lost his fitness battle after a hamstring injury and once again misses out on a place in the match-day 23.

Maro Itoje and Courtney Lawes stay together in the second row, with George Kruis among the replacements with back row Mark Wilson - in for Lewis Ludlam - and centre Jonathan Joseph.

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Rugby Union Weekly's Chris Ashton makes his predictions for World Cup semi-finals

'We're the only people in Japan who believe we can win'

Jones has been in ebullient mood all week, the snappiness of a week ago replaced by an obvious enjoyment in talking up the pressure on his team's opponents.

He told BBC Radio 5 Live: "There's always nerves - you're only human - but there's that mixture between being nervous and excited which is the reason you coach.

"To be involved in a game like this is the most fantastic experience as a coach, and it's what you live for.

"Out of one hundred journalists in the room, as we saw, 97 think New Zealand are going to win.

"The three who put up their hands put them up timidly and hoped no-one saw them put up their hands.

"Our 31 players plus 20-odd staff believe we can win, and we're the only people in Japan who believe we can win. We'll take that situation and maximise it."

England v New Zealand stats
Both teams are evenly matched in terms of caps, weight and age

New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen has sprung a surprise by dropping flanker Sam Cane to the bench and picking Scott Barrett - normally a lock - in the back row.

If that puts more pressure on the England line-out - a year after they lost five second-half line-outs in a 16-15 defeat by the All Blacks at Twickenham in which starred Barrett as a replacement - it may give Underhill and Curry the chance to attack the breakdown as effectively as they did against Australia.

Jones has described this as a clash that he foresaw as soon as the World Cup draw was made two and a half years ago.

It is the sort of battle that he was brought in at great expense to win, four years after England crashed out of the World Cup they were hosting before the knock-out stage.

Jones said: "Games against New Zealand are always won in the last 20 minutes, because it's always about being alive, it's always about work-rate.

"They're a team that is always in the game, so you've just got to be so disciplined in the way you play the game.

"The breakdown will be a paramount part of the game. They'll go hard in that area, so we have to be equipped to handle that. We have to be good in those transition areas."

England: Daly; Watson, Tuilagi, Farrell (capt), May; Ford, Youngs; M Vunipola, George, Sinckler, Itoje, Lawes, Curry, Underhill, B Vunipola.

Replacements: Cowan-Dickie, Marler, Cole, Kruis, Wilson, Heinz, Slade, Joseph.

Pick your England-New Zealand XV

Who makes the cut from Saturday's World Cup semi-finalists?

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