Captain Owen Farrell will start at flyhalf when he leads England out against Tonga at Twickenham on Saturday.
Eddie Jones, the England coach, had wanted to field rising star Marcus Smith alongside Farrell at inside centre.
But twice-capped Smith, who guided Harlequins to the Premiership title last season, suffered a leg injury in training this week. He has been ruled fit enough to provide bench cover for Farrell, who will be winning his 100th England cap.
Veteran Australian coach Jones has opted for a midfield trio of Farrell, Manu Tuilagi and Henry Slade.
“Marcus hasn’t been able to train,” Jones told reporters after naming his side on Thursday. “He just did some light training today and we anticipate he’s going to be able to train fully [on Friday]. Therefore we decided to start with Owen and Marcus will finish for us.”
Jones has already started looking towards the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France, as he aims to go one better after his England side were well beaten by South Africa in the final two years ago.
The back division features two exciting prospects in fullback Freddie Steward and wing Adam Radwan.
In the pack, Tom Curry has been chosen instead of Alex Dombrandt at No 8, with Ellis Genge preferred to veteran loosehead prop Joe Marler.
“There was a time when the previous World Cup team was possibly going to age a little bit and be too old to go to the next World Cup,” said Jones. “We’ve got a good mix for this game.
“Thirteen guys from the previous World Cup and 10 new guys, so we feel like that’s a team that can grow and develop to be world champions, which is our ultimate aim.”
Meanwhile, the former Wallabies and Japan coach forecasts a tough, “rip-roaring” clash with the Pacific Islanders.
“Tonga will bring their most physical side,” he said. “If you look at their two likely starting props, Siegfried Fisi’ihoi and Ben Tameifuna, [they are] the two most outstanding scrummaging props in [France’s] Top 14.”
Jones briefly delayed naming his team after a member of his backroom staff tested positive for Covid-19.
All England players and management have undergone additional lateral-flow tests and there have been no further positives, while the squad await the outcome of PCR testing.
Following the Tonga clash, England conclude their year with Twickenham matches against Australia and South Africa on 13 and 20 November, respectively.
England’s game against the Springboks will be the first time the teams have met since the 2019 World Cup final.
England – 15 Freddie Steward, 14 Adam Radwan, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Manu Tuilagi, 11 Jonny May, 10 Owen Farrell (c), 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Tom Curry, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 Jonny Hill, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Jamie George, 1 Ellis Genge.
Subs: 16 Jamie Blamire, 17 Joe Marler, 18 Will Stuart, 19 Charlie Ewels, 20 Alex Dombrandt, 21 Alex Mitchell, 22 Marcus Smith, 23 George Furbank.
Coach: Eddie Jones (Aus)
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