Six Nations 2020: England's Jonny Hill to make debut against Italy

By Chris JonesBBC rugby union correspondent
Jonny Hill playing for Exeter
Jonny Hill won the Champions Cup and Premiership with Exeter earlier in October
Guinness Six Nations: Italy v England
Venue: Stadio Olimpico, Rome Date: Saturday, 31 October Kick-off: 16:45 GMT
Coverage: Live on BBC Radio 5 Live with live text on BBC Sport website and app
Highlights: Watch on BBC Sport website and app after the match.

Exeter's double-winning lock Jonny Hill will make his England debut in Saturday's Six Nations match against Italy in Rome.

Hill starred as the Chiefs won a domestic and European double this month and joins Maro Itoje in the second row.

Scrum-half Ben Youngs wins his 100th cap, becoming the second Englishman to do so after Jason Leonard.

England could seal the Six Nations title with a win if the result of France v Ireland goes their way.

Hooker Tom Dunn and backs Ollie Lawrence and Ollie Thorley are set for their debuts from the bench.

As well as Youngs, starting hooker Jamie George reaches a milestone at the Stadio Olimpico as he wins his 50th cap.

With fly-half George Ford and centre Manu Tuilagi unavailable, captain Owen Farrell will start at 10 and is joined by Henry Slade and Jonathan Joseph in the midfield.

Northampton's George Furbank starts at full-back in the absence of the injured Elliot Daly.

Even with a bonus-point victory, England would not be confirmed Six Nations champions until after France play Ireland.

The return of full-back Matteo Minozzi is the only change to Italy's starting line-up. Minozzi, who replaces Jayden Hayward, missed last Saturday's 50-17 defeat in Ireland because he was playing for Wasps in the Premiership final.

Coach Franco Smith keeps faith with 20-year-old fly-half Paolo Garbisi, who scored 12 points on his debut last week, including a try.

Italy, already condemned to bottom place again, have lost their last 26 Six Nations matches, a run stretching back five years.

Short presentational grey line

Line-ups

England: Furbank; Watson, Joseph, Slade, May; Farrell (capt), Youngs; M Vunipola, George, Sinckler, Itoje, Hill, Curry, Underhill, B Vunipola.

Replacements: Dunn, Genge, Stuart, Ewels, Earl, Robson, Lawrence, Thorley.

Italy: Minozzi; Padovani, Morisi, Canna, Bellini; Garbisi, Violi; Fischetti, Bigi (capt), Zilocchi, Lazzaroni, Cannone, Negri, Steyn, Polledri.

Replacements: Lucchesi, Ferrari, Ceccarelli, Sisi, Meyer, Mbanda, Palazzani, Mori.

Short presentational grey lineSix Nations table showing Ireland on 14 points, England on 13, France on 13, Scotland on 10, Wales on 7 and Italy on 0

New faces come in as injury list grows

The presence of four uncapped players in the matchday 23 comes as head coach Eddie Jones battles with a growing list of injured players.

Wasps scrum-half Dan Robson is set to win his third cap off the bench after Willi Heinz was ruled out on Wednesday with a leg injury.

Exeter hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie, club-mate Jack Nowell, Joe Marler and Courtney Lawes are also injured.

Wasps fly-half Jacob Umaga has been overlooked, leaving no obvious 10 on the bench but Jones did suggest earlier in the week he had been trying Furbank in that position.

Forwards coach Matt Proudfoot said in-form Wasps flanker Jack Willis was "ready for Test rugby" but the 23-year-old has not made it into the squad, with Bristol's Ben Earl on the bench instead.

Hill fends off competition for second row opening

Lock George Kruis left a big hole to fill in England's second row when he announced a move to Japan in May.

Hill, who was previously selected for England's 2018 South Africa tour, has beaten off England veteran Joe Launchbury and Bath's Charlie Ewels for his place in the starting XV.

And head coach Jones said the 6ft 7in lock's performances with Exeter showed he is ready for his first international cap.

"We needed to find a big, tall, strong lock to replace George Kruis, who has been an outstanding member of our team," Jones said.

"Jonny has been doing that job for Exeter. He's good in the line-out, good around the maul and the ruck area. He's got a great work ethic and he's a really fine example of what Exeter have produced."

England's Six Nations resumes

England will play their first match since lockdown following a seven-month interruption to the Six Nations caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the cancellation of last week's scheduled Barbarians Test.

Here's how they have fared so far:

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