Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 November 2019

Huge gamble by Eddie Jones as England drop George Ford from Rugby World Cup clash against Australia

Coach insists fly-half will still play a key role, while the Wallabies select teenager Petaia for match in Oita

England coach Eddie Jones insisted fly-half George Ford has a "significant role to play" on Thursday after he dropped him to the bench for Saturday's World Cup quarter-final against Australia.

Ford has been one of England's leading players in Japan but Jones moved captain Owen Farrell from inside centre to fly-half, with Henry Slade given his first start of the tournament alongside Manu Tuilagi in midfield.

Jones, however, insisted Ford would still play a major part in the crunch clash between the old rivals in Oita. "George is in the 23, we have a starting team and a finishing team," he said on Thursday.

"I spoke to him this morning and he's obviously disappointed, but everyone has a role in the team. He has got a significant role to play.

"It's always a horses for courses situation, we are always looking to pick the right team for the right game."

Australia coach Michael Cheika named teenager Jordan Petaia in his starting side to face England in this weekend's Rugby World Cup quarter-final in a bold gamble.

Cheika's surprise decision to field the 19-year-old comes as wing Reece Hodge returns from a three-game ban, with centre James O'Connor dropping to the bench.

Allan Ala'alatoa, Michael Hooper, Will Genia, Christian Lealiifano also return to the starting line-up after Australia beat Georgia 27-8 in their final pool game.

"I trust him infinitely," Cheika said of Petaia, who will play as a centre for Australia for the first time. "He's looking good as gold. It's going to be fast and aggressive but I just know he will rise to the challenge – I've seen it in him."

Lock Brodie Retallick has returned for the All Blacks in arguably their strongest side for Saturday's World Cup quarter-final against Ireland in Tokyo.

Retallick and hooker Codie Taylor were the only changes to the pack that opened their campaign against South Africa with a 23-13 victory in Yokohama.

In-form Anton Lienert-Brown and Jack Goodhue got the nod for the defending champions in midfield. Sonny Bill Williams was left on the bench and fellow centre Ryan Crotty missed out altogether.

Coach Steve Hansen said: "We feel we've selected a great mixture of talent in our 23, who are in great form, and the squad includes many players who have a lot of Rugby World Cup knockout match experience."

Ireland named Garry Ringrose in the midfield to replace the suspended Bundee Aki for the game at Tokyo Stadium.

Aki was suspended for three weeks after he received a red card for a high tackle in Ireland's final Pool A game against Samoa. Ireland opted not to appeal the decision on Thursday.

Robbie Henshaw, who played centre in the match against Samoa, has moved into the No 12 jersey with Ringrose coming in as centre.

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt said Aki's suspension had made the midfield one of the easier decisions in a tough selection puzzle across the board.

"There were probably four or five reasonably tight selection decisions," Schmidt told reporters on Thursday. "Obviously with Bundee missing out that clarified the midfield a little.

"On the wings, Andrew Conway has been very good as well as Jordan Lamour so the outside backs are also a conundrum ... but we have chosen the players who we think will best serve us in this fixture."

Updated: October 17, 2019 06:25 PM

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