Eddie Jones has rolled the dice for England’s do-or-die clash with Australia on Saturday by handing debuts to Guy Porter and Tommy Freeman as well as a first start to Jack van Poortvliet. Jones has made four changes to the side that went down 30-28 in Perth – three in the backs – with Sam Underhill also replacing the injured Tom Curry.
Porter’s inclusion is arguably the most eye-catching given he was raised in Australia and went to Sydney university before committing to England – the place of his birth – following his emergence with Leicester. He was an unused replacement in the first Test but comes into the side at outside-centre with Joe Marchant dropped from the 23 entirely.
The 21-year-old Freeman, meanwhile, comes in on the left wing for Joe Cokanasiga. Freeman has been in excellent form for Northampton this season but missed out on the 23-man squad in Perth. Jones has resisted the temptation to start the 19-year-old Henry Arundell, however, paving the way for Freeman to replace Cokanasiga, who failed to make an impact in the first Test.
Van Poortvliet won his cap in Perth and marked his debut with a try but at 21 he comes into a youthful backline where five players have a combined total of 23 caps. It is a remarkable rise for Van Poortvliet, who Jones is understood to rate very highly, but who failed to make Leicester’s matchday squad for the Premiership final. Elsewhere, Owen Farrell provides experience from inside-centre as he continues his dual playmaker partnership with Marcus Smith while Jack Nowell and Freddie Steward keep their places.
As expected, Underhill replaces Curry, who was ruled out of the rest of the tour earlier this week, having sustained a concussion in the first Test. That is the only change to the pack, though Jack Willis is selected on the bench with Jones opting for a 6-2 split among his replacements. That means Ellis Genge, Jamie George and Will Stuart continue in the front row, Maro Itoje and Jonny Hill are again the locks with Courtney Lawes captaining the side from blindside flanker on his 100th Test appearance and Billy Vunipola again at No8. Luke Cowan-Dickie, Mako Vunipola, Joe Heyes, Ollie Chessum, Lewis Ludlam and Danny Care all join Willis and Arundell on the bench.
Jones said: “We have decided to make changes in our back line, they were tough calls but we feel they will strengthen the team. There are opportunities to attack against Australia which we can take. We have had solid preparation this week and [we’re[ looking forward to an important game in Brisbane. This game is the perfect practice for the World Cup and our focus is putting on our best performance.”