England will unleash a trio of destructive Pacific Islanders upon Italy at Twickenham as head coach Eddie Jones recalls a lesson learned against Australia three years ago.
Ben Te’o and Manu Tuilagi will start together in midfield for the first time while Joe Cokanasiga has been selected on the right wing.
Between them the three destructive carriers of Samoan and Fijian heritage have a combined weight of 52 stones.
With Jonny May continuing in the No 11 jersey, they will comprise the most powerful threequarter line in English rugby history. Italy coach Conor O’Shea has described the selection for tomorrow’s Guinness Six Nations clash as Jones’ “dream team”, adding that it is a side of “absolutely enormous” dimensions.
Jones has revealed that its origins date back to an autumn international staged at Twickenham in 2016 when England were in the midst of their world record-equalling sequence of 18 successive Test wins.
“I remember playing Australia three years ago and we were 8kgs per player lighter,” said Jones, who on that day masterminded a 37-21 victory against the Wallabies.
“We’re able now to pick a big backline, which can play a little bit differently.
“If Italy go to a dump and fan type defence – and we’re not sure what they’ll do – we’ve now got the firepower to go through them.
“In certain games it’s massively important when maybe you’re not getting fast ruck ball and the only way to get through the line is by smashing through it. At times you need to have a team that can play like that.
“Certain referees will give you faster ruck ball and certain teams will give you faster ruck ball, but other teams won’t, so when the game is tight you need a bigger back line.
“We have to be able to pick that sort of team, if that sort of game is coming up – and maybe it’s going to be that sort of game on Saturday.”
Potentially matching the brute force behind the scrum are combustible props Ellis Genge and Kyle Sinckler, who will be packing down in the same front row for the first time in the penultimate round of the Six Nations.
They were uncapped rookies when Jones picked them for the 2016 tour to Australia and even then they made their presence felt.
Ever since Jones has sought to retain their edge while adding a degree of restraint.
“I can remember having a session somewhere on the Gold Coast and we took these two young props,” Jones said.
“They wanted to fight with everyone and argue with everyone. For the whole session we just tried to keep those two calm.
“There’s that great book written by Dr Steve Peters – The Chimp Paradox – and we don’t want to take the chimp out of them.
“We want them to be aggressive, tough and relentless props but at the same time be able to understand the discipline of playing for your team and playing against a team and playing with the referee.
“For those really naturally aggressive players it’s always a challenge.
“But as you play more games at the top level, your team-mates understand you better, they understand their team-mates better and they learn to channel it in a very productive way.
“Hopefully we will see more of that on Saturday.
“They won’t be the finished product on Saturday, but hopefully we’ll see another step closer.”
England team to face Italy in the Guinness Six Nations at Twickenham: E Daly (Wasps); J Cokanasiga (Bath), M Tuilagi (Leicester), B Te’o (Worcester), J May (Leicester); O Farrell (Saracens, capt), B Youngs (Leicester); E Genge (Leicester), J George (Saracens), K Sinckler (Harlequins), J Launchbury (Wasps), G Kruis (Saracens), B Shields (Wasps), T Curry (Sale), B Vunipola (Saracens).
Replacements: L Cowan-Dickie (Exeter), B Moon (Exeter), D Cole (Leicester), N Hughes (Wasps), M Wilson (Newcastle), D Robson (Wasps), G Ford (Leicester), H Slade (Exeter).