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England makes minor changes for Six Nations match vs. Italy

The Canadian Press

3/13/2014 11:50:07 AM

LONDON -- England was forced into a late change for the Six Nations match against Italy on Saturday, with prop Joe Marler dropping out to be with his partner ahead of the birth of their first child.

Mako Vunipola was promoted from the reserves, with Matt Mullan called up to the bench on Thursday.

"It is important that Joe is with his partner at this exciting time," England coach Stuart Lancaster said. "Family must always come first."

The other change to the matchday squad of 23 saw centre Manu Tuilagi named on the bench in place of Alex Goode after recovering from a pectoral muscle injury that kept him out for six months. He is expected to make his first England appearance in a year in Rome.

The English still have a chance to win the Six Nations if they defeat Italy and France beat Ireland. However, they must also overhaul Ireland's points superiority should the Irish win in Paris.

Tuilagi's return was widely expected after England coaches even considered including him in their squad for the crunch game against Wales until Lancaster decided it would be safer to wait one more week.

England hopes Tuilagi's power will be a decisive factor in Rome as Lancaster's team hopes to pile on the points.

"The Wales result was very significant for us but we need to finish the tournament well in Rome," Lancaster said. "We have had a tight turnaround and the key this week has been to manage the players' recovery and get them in the best shape for what will be a tough match against Italy."

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England: Mike Brown, Jack Nowell, Luther Burrell, Billy Twelvetrees, Jonny May, Owen Farrell, Danny Care; Ben Morgan, Chris Robshaw (captain), Tom Wood, Courtney Lawes, Joe Launchbury, David Wilson, Dylan Hartley, Mako Vunipola. Reserves: Tom Youngs, Matt Mullan, Henry Thomas, Dave Attwood, Tom Johnson, Lee Dickson, George Ford, Manu Tuilagi.