Reports suggest that Jonathan Joseph will be fast-tracked back into the England side to face Australia in the do-or-die match at Twickenham on Saturday after making a swift recovery from his chest injury.
Sam Burgess will give way to accommodate Joseph at 13, with Brad Barritt switching back to inside centre and Owen Farrell retaining his place at fly-half in another untried midfield combination. It is the 18th permutation of Stuart Lancaster’s 3½-year tenure.
Joseph had been expected to miss Saturday’s game after sustaining a pectoral injury in the opening victory against Fiji, but has made enough progress for England to rush him back to bring more creativity and potency to the backline.
Barritt and Joseph, who scored four tries in the Six Nations Championship last season, were the first-choice centre pairing for the opening Pool A win against Fiji, with George Ford at fly-half. It is understood that the Bath player will again be on the bench, and that England will stick with Farrell, who scored 20 points against Wales.
There are other changes to the side who crashed to a 28-25 defeat by Wales at Twickenham last Saturday. Ben Morgan, who missed that game with a bruised knee, returns at No 8 in place of Billy Vunipola, who has been ruled out of the tournament with a knee-ligament injury. Joe Launchbury, the Wasps lock, will make his first start in this World Cup as a replacement for Courtney Lawes, who is struggling with a knee injury.
England are understood to be optimistic that Ben Youngs, one of the top performers against Wales, will recover from an ankle injury and it appears he will be given until tomorrow to prove his fitness. Richard Wigglesworth, who has also shown impressive form in his two appearances from the bench, is on standby.
Burgess, who made his first competitive start in the defeat by Wales, will take Alex Goode’s spot as a replacement, to bring impact from the bench, and Saracens lock George Kruis will provide second-row cover.