England all about the Farrell and barrel as Eddie Jones digs deep for South Africa

ENGLAND were all about Farrell and the barrel as Eddie Jones dug deeper than ever to scrape up a side to face South Africa.

The good, Owen Farrell, and the bad — the Red Rose pack — take on the biggest and ugliest Springbok side to come to Twickenham in a decade.

 Owen Farrell will start at number ten for England against South Africa

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Owen Farrell will start at number ten for England against South Africa

While the injury-hit front eight is dangerously short of grunt, caps and kilos for tomorrow’s showdown, Jones shored up his backline by picking Farrell ahead of George Ford at fly-half and gambling on injury-hit Ben Te’o alongside Henry Slade at centre.

It will be only the England co- captain’s third start in 31 Tests under Jones in the playmaking position where he stars for Saracens.

And England will need to lean on all of the 27-year-old’s experience from his 61 Red Rose caps to find a way to beat the Springboks.

Jones, 58, said: “Owen’s a bit of a spiritual leader in our side so being close to the action will help.

 Eddie Jones has done a lot of head scratching trying to find forwards who are fit and not suspended

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Eddie Jones has done a lot of head scratching trying to find forwards who are fit and not suspended
 England have been forced to scrape the barrel for forwards to face South Africa

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England have been forced to scrape the barrel for forwards to face South Africa

“He’s from good stock and handles responsibility well. He’s an aggressive competitor and we need that against South Africa, definitely.

“I also wanted to see the difference it makes playing Owen at No 10 with bigger centres. Tactically, we’ll be a bit different.”

England’s pack, however, is almost unrecognisable. Co-captain Dylan Hartley, 32, will win his 94th cap at hooker and has 30 more Test appearances than the rest of the dirt-tracking scrum.

Even with Hartley’s 93 caps, England’s eight have a measly 155 caps to the Springboks’ 293.

The back row have just ten between them — Newcastle No 8 Mark Wilson and Sale flanker Tom Curry boasting four each and blindside Brad Shields two — compared with 100 for the Springboks trio.

Exeter prop Alec Hepburn, 25, makes his first start after two appearances off the bench while uncapped forwards Ben Moon and Zach Mercer are among those on the bench.

Jones has 18 players out injured or suspended, 13 of whom are forwards.

The Aussie, who lost the summer Test series 2-1 in South Africa after flopping in the Six Nations, admitted: “I wouldn’t say this has been the most difficult team selection but it’s the deepest we’ve had to dig.

 Ben Te'o comes in to the starting line-up despite being short of match action

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Ben Te'o comes in to the starting line-up despite being short of match action

“This shows how deep we can go but how deep do we have to go? That’s the question.

“I don’t think there is such a thing as a full squad any more.

“We are just going to be picking players from here, there and everywhere to try to get through the next period of time. That’s the reality of rugby.”

Picking Te’o is a huge call as the Lions and Worcester powerhouse has played just 28 minutes this season after missing the summer tour to have thigh surgery.

But Jones is desperately short of ball-carriers and decided to go mobile instead of meeting the Boks’ fire with fire.

He then plans to unleash Leicester’s Manu Tuilagi off the bench when the game opens up.

And that will be good news for outside centre Henry Slade, who was used as a biff man in all three Tests during England’s series defeat in June.

 Brad Shields is one of the inexperienced England forwards preparing to take on the might of South Africa

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Brad Shields is one of the inexperienced England forwards preparing to take on the might of South Africa

Exeter star Slade said: “With Ben and Manu coming back it gives us a lot of options in the midfield and a really good balance.

“In the summer, I was probably the bloke doing the main carrying-off first phase and that’s not really my game.

“We’ve got some big lads in the midfield to do that and play to our strengths.

“That’s Benny’s and Manu’s strengths and my game is more about being that second distributor and getting the ball to our outside backs, who are really dangerous.

“We’ve got a good spread and mix of strengths across the back line.”

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Chris Ashton must wait for his first England appearance in four years as the Sale try-machine was cut from England’s matchday 23, with Jonny May and Jack Nowell starting on the wings.

Jones said: “Chris was very close and he’s absolutely gutted.

“But I have to say I love his attitude. He has taken it well and his opportunity won’t be far away.”

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ENGLAND were all about Farrell and the barrel as Eddie Jones dug deeper than ever to scrape up a side to face South Africa.