Lawes captains England as Care, Vunipola return against Wallabies

England coach Eddie Jones named Courtney Lawes captain Thursday ahead of Owen Farrell for the first Test against Australia, as veteran scrum-half Danny Care was handed his first start since 2018.

FILE: England's flanker Courtney Lawes (R) attends a captain's run training session at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, outside Paris, on 17 March 2022, on the eve of the Six Nations rugby union tournament match between France and England. Picture: FRANCK FIFE/AFP

PERTH - England coach Eddie Jones named Courtney Lawes captain Thursday ahead of Owen Farrell for the first Test against Australia, as veteran scrum-half Danny Care was handed his first start since 2018.

Big forward Billy Vunipola will also start in Perth on Saturday after being recalled for the first time since March last year.

Veteran back Farrell had been Eddie Jones's go-to man as skipper since 2018, but ankle injuries forced him to miss the entire Six Nations this year with Lawes taking the armband.

Jones opted to stick with the experienced blindside flanker for the opening Test of the three-match series, although Farrell returns to earn his 95th cap, having last played in the 32-15 win over the Wallabies in November 2021.

He will start at inside centre with Joe Marchant at outside centre. Joe Cokanasiga and Jack Nowell are on the wings and Freddie Steward at full back.

Care was preferred to Harry Randall at scrum-half, almost four years after winning the last of his 84 caps, pairing with playmaker Marcus Smith in the No.10 shirt.

Jonny May, second only to Rory Underwood in England's list of all-time leading try-scorers, was not in the match-day 23 after contracting Covid on arrival in Perth last week.

In another blow for the squad, Bath lock Charlie Ewels suffered a knee injury in training on Wednesday and has been ruled out of the tour.

Bristol Bears back-row forward Sam Jeffries will fly to Australia to replace Ewels in the squad.

Hooker Jamie George joins props Ellis Genge and Will Stuart up front with Maro Itoje and Jonny Hill in the second row.

Tom Curry is openside flanker and Australian-born Vunipola makes his first appearance for England since the Six Nations last year at No.8.

"We have had very strong preparation for this game. We did some good recovery work in Fremantle and quality training in Perth," said Jones.

"The squad has come together well since we met up last week.

"Picking the 23 out of this group of 36 was difficult. We feel we have a well-balanced team which is ready for this improving Australia team. We'll take it to them from the start."

England have won all eight of their Tests against the Wallabies since former Australia coach Jones took charge after the 2015 World Cup, including a 3-0 series whitewash six years ago.

TEAM

England (15-1): Freddie Steward; Jack Nowell, Joe Marchant, Owen Farrell, Joe Cokanasiga; Marcus Smith, Danny Care; Ellis Genge, Jamie George, Will Stuart; Maro Itoje, Jonny Hill; Courtney Lawes (capt), Tom Curry, Billy Vunipola

Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Mako Vunipola, Joe Heyes, Ollie Chessum, Lewis Ludlam, Jack van Poortlviet, Guy Porter, Henry Arundell