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England v Samoa: Dylan Hartley remains first choice, despite bench spot


Captain Dylan Hartley remains head coach Eddie Jones’ first-choice hooker, despite being left out of Saturday’s match against Samoa at Twickenham.

Hartley drops to the bench as Jamie George get his first start, while flanker Chris Robshaw and fly-half George Ford are named co-captains.

The 31-year-old has led the team for all 22 Test matches under Jones.

“It’s an opportunity to increase the depth of the squad,” the Australian told BBC Sport.

“It’s a good opportunity to give Jamie a start. We want to see how Jamie goes as a starting hooker.”

Asked whether Hartley would start as captain if England were playing world champions New Zealand, Jones added: “100%.”

Hartley, who Jones says has not been training with the team this week, is joined among the replacements by 19-year-old lock Nick Isiekwe and back Piers Francis.

Exeter number eight Sam Simmonds makes a starting debut for his country.

“This season I have watched him closely,” said Jones. “He’s impressed me. He’s a good kid, he works hard and has got great speed. It’s a fantastic opportunity for him.”

Owen Farrell has again been rested with Alex Lozowski paired at centre with Henry Slade.

Prop Mako Vunipola has also been omitted from the 23-man squad, with Ellis Genge starting in the front row with George and Dan Cole.

After impressing on this summer’s tour of Argentina, Charlie Ewels is in the second row with Joe Launchbury.

Maro Itoje starts for the first time this autumn, and is alongside Robshaw and Simmonds in the back row.

Following his match-winning cameo against Australia, Danny Care starts at scrum-half while, as expected, full-back Mike Brown returns from concussion.

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