Much ado about Covid in the build up. England captain and stand-off, Owen Farrell testing positive for the spiteful virus of our times on Friday meant Eddie did not name his starting lineup until 90 minutes before kick-off. And when he did finally name it Northampton’s George Furbank – usually a fullback – is starting at 10. Well well, clearly Marcus Smith’s minor leg injury is still a worry. Courtney Lawes takes over as captain and Mark Atkinson is promoted to the bench.
Away from half-back, there are starts for Leicester’s impressive Freddie Steward and Newcastle’s young flyer Adam Radwan. In the forwards, Tom Curry starts at No 8 ahead of Alex Dombrandt.
Alex Mitchell and Jamie Blamire will make their debuts from the bench.
Tonga make nine changes, a reflection of the fixture today being inside the sanctioned Test window.
England: Freddie Steward; Adam Radwan, Henry Slade, Manu Tuilagi, Jonny May; George Furbank, Ben Youngs; Ellis Genge, Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, Jonny Hill, Courtney Lawes (captain), Sam Underhill, Tom Curry.
Replacements: Jamie Blamire, Joe Marler, Will Stuart, Charlie Ewels, Alex Dombrandt, Alex Mitchell, Marcus Smith, Mark Atkinson.
Tonga: Telusa Veainu; Walter Fifita, Mailetoa Hingano, Afusipa Taumoepeau, Solomone Kata; Kurt Morath, Sonatane Takulua (captain); Sigfried Fisi’ihoi, Paula Ngauamo, Ben Tameifuna, Halaleva Fifita, Tanginoa Halaifonua, Lopeti Timani, Mateaki Kafatolu, Sione Vailanu.
Replacements: Siua Maile, Loni Uhila, Ma’afu Fia, Setofano Funaki, Onehunga Havili, Leon Fukofuka, James Faiva, Viliami Fine.