Exiled Northampton flanker Tom Wood is poised to make his first international appearance for more than a year when England begin their autumn programme against South Africa at Twickenham on Saturday.
Wood is set to start at openside flanker, alongside former skipper Chris Robshaw and No8 Billy Vunipola in the back-row, after working his way into Eddie Jones’s plans amid a series of injuries in the pack.
The last time the trio started together in England’s back-row was during the Red Rose’s 28-25 loss to Wales at last year’s World Cup, despite them boasting a 10-point lead against their injury-hit rivals.
Wood has been retained in a 25-man party, as Saracens full-back Alex Goode and Bath wing Semesa Rokoduguni missed the cut. Uncapped trio Nathan Hughes, Josh Beaumont and Ben Te’o were all retained.
Fit-again Gloucester wing Jonny May, who is yet to feature under Australian Jones, is set to earn a place in England’s starting XV, with Harlequins flyer Marland Yarde on the opposite flank.
England have won all nine matches since Jones was appointed in December, while their winning streak spans 10 games in total, but they have not beaten the Springboks for 12 clashes, dating back to 2006.
Scrum-half Ben Youngs insists the time has come for England to end their South Africa hoodoo, and believes inspiration can be drawn from Ireland’s impressive victory over world champions New Zealand in Chicago on Saturday.
“We feel our time is now to get rid of the last 10 years and get a win at the weekend,” said the Leicester No9. “It [Ireland’s win] goes to show the gap between northern and southern hemisphere is not as big as people think it is.
“I think the biggest thing Ireland did was come out of the blocks quickly. They were really intense with their start and it was a good lesson for us watching about how important it is to get in the game during the first 20 minutes, to treasure the ball and not be loose.”