Nathan Hughes was recalled by England coach Eddie Jones yesterday in the only change to the Six Nations champions’ starting side for Saturday’s Calcutta Cup clash away to Scotland (at 11:45pm Cambodian time).
The Wasps No8, who has been out of Test action since suffering a knee injury while on club duty in December, goes straight into the back row in place of the sidelined Sam Simmonds.
“Nathan Hughes has worked hard on his fitness. I’ve never seen him in better physical condition, so we are looking forward to him playing,” said Jones.
Simmonds came off at half-time with a shoulder injury during England’s 12-6 win over Wales last time out and could now miss the remainder of the Championship.
Billy Vunipola is England’s first-choice No 8 but the Saracens star is currently out of action with a broken arm.
Fiji-born Hughes, however, is the nearest equivalent given he too is a powerful ball-carrier compared to the lighter and more nimble Simmonds.
“Nathan has a key role in defence and in us gaining momentum in attack,” Jones said.
Jonathan Joseph has retained his place at outside centre in the face of competition from Ben Te’o, who started in England’s tournament-opening 46-15 win away to Italy on February 4.
Jones has also made one change to his bench, with experienced prop Joe Marler replacing Alec Hepburn after completing a six-week ban for a dangerous clear-out.
But there is no place in the matchday 23 for James Haskell even though the veteran back-row is also now available after serving a suspension.
England against Scotland is rugby union’s oldest international fixture, the border rivals having first met back in 1871.
Two England players will be celebrating personal landmarks at Murrayfield on Saturday.
Dylan Hartley, the Red Rose captain and hooker will be winning his 92nd England cap – surpassing World Cup-winner Jonny Wilkinson’s tally of 91 and leaving him second on the all-time national list behind Jason Leonard’s tally of 114.
This weekend’s match in Edinburgh will also mark lock Joe Launchbury’s 50th England appearance.