England recall Ford at fly-half for World Cup semi-final

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Tokyo (AFP)

England have recalled George Ford at fly-half for their World Cup semi-final against New Zealand, coach Eddie Jones announced Thursday.

Ford came off the bench during England's 40-16 quarter-final win over Australia. But he is now in the starting XV for Saturday's match against the reigning world champions in Yokohama.

England captain Owen Farrell, who started at fly-half against the Wallabies, moves to inside centre with Manu Tuilagi alongside him in midfield.

Henry Slade drops down to the bench for the most important match of veteran Australian coach Jones's four-year reign in charge of England.

In-form wing Jonny May, who scored two tries against Australia, has been passed fit after leaving the field shortly before the end of the Wallabies' match with a hamstring problem.

Ford has been one of England's leading players at Japan 2019 and was named man-of-the-match in a pool win against the United States.

But concerns about the threat posed by Australia powerhouse midfielder Samu Kerevi saw him benched for the quarter-final.

Ford's inclusion is set to bolster England's kicking and distribution options, with All Blacks centres Anton Lienert-Brown and Jack Goodhue not posing the same physical threat as Kerevi.

The only other change to England's matchday 23 is among the reserve forwards, with back-row Mark Wilson replacing Lewis Ludlam.

Meanwhile Saracens number eight Billy Vunipola will win his 50th cap in a back-row featuring "kamikaze kids" Sam Underhill and Tom Curry.

"Preparation has been good this week after a solid win against Australia," Jones, the Wallabies coach when they lost the 2003 World Cup final, said in a statement.

"When you get to this stage of the World Cup, it is all about focusing on being in the moment and getting yourself physically right."

England have won just seven of their 41 Tests against New Zealand -- who hammered Ireland 46-14 in the last eight -- and they have lost all three of their previous World Cup encounters against the All Blacks.

But several members of the current side featured the last time England beat the All Blacks in a 38-21 victory at Twickenham seven years ago and were also involved in the 2017 British and Irish Lions squad that drew a Test series in New Zealand.

- 'Won't faze them' -

"The squad has approached the game well with real maturity," said Jones.

"It has helped having players here who have been on the Lions tour and played against New Zealand.

"They have been involved in some of the biggest games in world rugby so this semi-final won't faze them."

He added: "New Zealand are a great team and they have an impressive winning record since the last World Cup.

"Like any good team, you have to take away time and space from them and you have to find areas you can pressure them. We believe we have identified a number of areas where we can do that."

New Zealand, who have not lost a World Cup match since their 2007 quarter-final defeat by France, named their side earlier Thursday.

The All Blacks made just one change for the game that coach Steve Hansen said could be one "for the ages".

Scott Barrett was named at blindside flanker, replacing Sam Cane who moves to the bench.