England’s Wood set for return against South Africa

Billy Vunipola, left, Chris Robshaw and Tom Wood, right, in England training on Tuesday

From left: Billy Vunipola, Chris Robshaw and Tom Wood are set to form England’s back row on Saturday

Northampton’s Tom Wood is set to make his first England appearance in over a year after being named in the 25-man squad preparing for Saturday’s Test against South Africa at Twickenham.

It is understood he will start at open-side flanker, with Chris Robshaw and Billy Vunipola completing the back row.

Jonny May will also feature for the first time under boss Eddie Jones.

He will start on one wing and Marland Yarde on the other, with Semesa Rokoduguni missing out.

Courtney Lawes has proved his fitness and is set to start in the second row alongside Joe Launchbury, with Dave Attwood on the bench.

The uncapped trio of Nathan Hughes, Josh Beaumont and Ben Te’o have also been retained in the training party.

England, looking for their first win against the Springboks in 12 fixtures spanning a decade, will confirm their starting XV and replacements on Thursday morning, with two players – including one of the uncapped trio – set to be trimmed from the squad named on Tuesday.

Which uncapped player misses out depends on whether England go with a five-three or six-two forwards/backs split on the bench, while hooker Tommy Taylor is expected to be the other man to be cut.

After facing South Africa, England continue their series of autumn internationals against Fiji, Argentina and Australia on consecutive Saturdays.

England head coach Eddie Jones described Wood as “distinctly average” after last autumn’s World Cup, but has turned to the 30-year-old, who has won 42 caps, following injuries to back row contenders James Haskell, Maro Itoje, Jack Clifford, Sam Jones and Mike Williams.

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Tom Wood spoke to the BBC last week about being called ‘distinctly average’

England squad to face South Africa

Forwards: Josh Beaumont (Sale Sharks), Dave Attwood (Bath Rugby), Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers), Jamie George (Saracens), Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints), Nathan Hughes (Wasps), Joe Launchbury (Wasps), Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints), Joe Marler (Harlequins), Chris Robshaw (Harlequins), Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins), Tommy Taylor (Wasps), Billy Vunipola (Saracens), Mako Vunipola (Saracens), Tom Wood (Northampton Saints).

Backs: Mike Brown (Harlequins), Danny Care (Harlequins), Elliot Daly (Wasps), Owen Farrell (Saracens), George Ford (Bath Rugby), Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby), Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby), Ben Te’o (Worcester Warriors), Marland Yarde (Harlequins), Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers).

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