Marcus Smith on bench for England as preparations to face Tonga hit by Covid

Owen Farrell has been named to start at fly-half against Tonga on Saturday with Marcus Smith on the bench, but a cloud hangs over England’s opening autumn Test after a member of Eddie Jones’s support staff tested positive for Covid-19.

Jones was forced to delay naming his team on Thursday after the positive result emerged with the staff member immediately put into isolation. All players and staff have produced negative lateral flow test results but are awaiting the outcome of PCR tests.

在声明中, the Rugby Football Union said that the intention remained for a training session to take place on Thursday morning before Jones’s belated team was announced with Farrell – who is in line for his 100th Test cap – selected at fly-half and as captain. Jones had previously indicated his plans to pair Smith and Farrell together in midfield but the former has been struggling with a lower leg problem. Jones has named Manu Tuilagi at inside-centre for a first England appearance since March 2020, with Henry Slade occupying the No 13 jersey.

Freddie Steward, who like Smith was also struggling with a lower leg injury, has also been passed fit to line up at full-back, having also won his first two caps over the summer. 别处, Jones has named Adam Radwan on the wing but Tom Curry is preferred to Alex Dombrandt, who takes his place among the replacements.

Courtney Lawes is at blindside flanker, Sam Underhill is selected at openside and Jonny Hill partners Maro Itoje in the second row. Having been left out of the initial squad, Jamie George starts at hooker with Ellis Genge and Kyle Sinckler the starting props while Ben Youngs wins his 110th England cap at scrum-half and Jonny May lines up on the left wing.

Genge, Lawes and Curry have all been named as vice-captains for England’s three Tests. Joe Marler, Jamie Blamire and Will Stuart provide front-row cover from the bench while Charlie Ewels, George Furbank and Alex Mitchell – who will make his debut if he comes on – join Smith and Dombrandt on the bench.

Jones said: “We’ve had two good preparation camps in Jersey and Pennyhill Park, worked really hard and we’re ready for a tough, physical game. We respect Tonga greatly and we know that with props like Siegfried Fisi’ihoi and Ben Tameifuna, we are going to have to go in the front door before the back door. We’re especially looking forward to getting back out in front of a full crowd at Twickenham and playing some entertaining, exciting rugby for all of the supporters, we can’t wait to have them back.”