The haste with which Brad Shields has found his way on to the England bench after only meeting up with his adopted countrymen for the first time on Monday may leave a sour taste, but the presence of Tom Curry and Nick Isiekwe in the starting line-up is an altogether healthier vote of confidence in the domestic production line.
Isiekwe – at 20 the baby Maro at Saracens – will partner Itoje in the second row in what will be his first England start; Curry, a year younger, will win just his second cap as Jones trusts in youth to staunch the bleeding after a run of three successive defeats.
Isiekwe’s chance comes on the back of a calf problem for Joe Launchbury. Curry’s is a selection that would have happened earlier but for the injury issues which have affected him since his debut in Argentina a year ago.
“A lot of the players didn’t know him. The Lions boys hadn’t had an opportunity to train or play with him and he’s been injured for most of the season so he was a bit of an unknown, but the general comment from the senior players has been, “This kid could be the real thing’,” said Jones.
“He was absolutely outstanding in that first Test in Argentina. It’s good for us that we’ve had guys who went to Argentina – Isiekwe, Harry Williams, Denny Solomona, Piers Francis, Curry – and have all come through from what was basically a development tour.”
Shields’ route, direct from Super Rugby in Wellington, has been a good deal more controversial.
When the Hurricanes back-row met George Ford this week in Durban they found themselves chewing the fat over the 2011 Junior World Cup final, a game in which they played on opposite sides.
“He was undoubtedly nervous about coming to the squad,” said Jones. “It is difficult when you come to a different team, particularly when you have been playing your domestic rugby in another country. But he has fitted in extremely well and everyone knows he is genuine about wanting to play for England.”
Shields will cover flanker and second row from the bench alongside another uncapped player in Saracens scrum-half Ben Spencer, but there is no room in the 23 for Danny Cipriani.
“There are a couple of areas of his game we’ve found since he’s been in camp that he needs to work on. We’ve spoken to him about that and he’s on the job,” said Jones.
The back three is as expected, personnel-wise, but with Elliot Daly at full-back and Mike Brown on the wing. The muddled thinking is that the swap will give Daly more room to use his pace and Brown more chance to use his power around the ruck.
South Africa, who have changed their entire 15 from the one beaten 22-20 by Wales in the United States last weekend, have a doubt over prop Trevor Nyakane (rib) so have placed Wilco Louw on stand-by.
If Nyakane plays, the Springboks – led for the first time by a black captain in Siya Kolisi – will have a majority non-white starting line-up as coach Rassie Erasmus attempts to deliver on racial selection targets as well as restore a side who have slipped to No7 in the world rankings.
“The three big things up to the World Cup to try to get right are: 1 – winning, 2 – transformation, and 3 – building experience and squad depth,” said Erasmus.
“We have followed all these players closely in Super Rugby. I am very comfortable with the way we have selected the team.”
There are two debutant wings in Aphiwe Dyantyi and S’Busiso Nkosi, the Sharks speedster who had a word of warning for his opposite number Brown yesterday.
“It’s not a dream come true for me; it’s the beginning of a dream come true,” said Nkosi. “I don’t just want to play for the Springboks, I want to be excellent for the Springboks.”