March 8 (Bloomberg) -- Mako Vunipola will make his first start for the England rugby team in this weekend’s Six Nations match against Italy.
Vunipola replaces Joe Marler at loosehead prop, one of five changes made by coach Stuart Lancaster from the 23-13 win over France two weeks ago. Vunipola made his first seven appearances for England as a substitute.
The other changes for the match at London’s Twickenham Stadium in two days have Toby Flood taking over at fly-half for Owen Farrell, who left the France game with a thigh injury; Danny Care replacing Ben Youngs at scrum-half, Tom Youngs coming on for Dylan Hartley at hooker and James Haskell getting the call at blindside flanker in place of Courtney Lawes.
England leads the Six Nations standings having won its first three matches. Italy has lost its last two games after opening with a 23-18 upset of pre-tournament favorite France.
“Italy will be highly motivated for this game and we will have to perform for the full 80 minutes,” Lancaster said. “I am sure those starting will seize their chance and the bench will also have a significant part to play as the game goes on.”
Tom Croft returns to the England team for the first time in a year following his recovery from a broken neck. He’ll be a new addition to the substitutes’ bench, along with Freddie Burns.
ENGLAND TEAM 15 - Alex Goode (Saracens) 14 - Chris Ashton (Saracens) 13 - Manu Tuilagi (Leicester) 12 - Brad Barritt (Saracens) 11 - Mike Brown (Harlequins) 10 - Toby Flood (Leicester) 9 - Danny Care (Harlequins) 1 - Mako Vunipola (Saracens) 2 - Tom Youngs (Leicester) 3 - Dan Cole (Leicester) 4 - Joe Launchbury (Wasps) 5 - Geoff Parling (Leicester) 6 - James Haskell (Wasps) 7 - Chris Robshaw (Harlequins, captain) 8 - Tom Wood (Northampton) SUBSTITUTES 16 - Dylan Hartley (Northampton) 17 - David Wilson (Bath) 18 - Joe Marler (Harlequins) 19 - Courtney Lawes (Northampton) 20 - Tom Croft (Leicester) 21 - Ben Youngs (Leicester) 22 - Freddie Burns (Gloucester) 23 - Billy Twelvetrees (Gloucester)
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