Jones assured on makeshift England wing Tuilagi – "We’ll pick the best players"

It's rare England head coach Eddie Jones is concerned with fitting to convention or meeting expectations, a mentality that was evident across the team he named to face Australia on Saturday.

The Red Rose will host the Wallabies at Twickenham in what will be their second Test of the autumn, yet already Jones has thrown a series of curveballs out of left field with his selections.

Among the most surprising of Thursday's picks was the decision to name Sale Sharks centre Manu Tuilagi on the wing at the expense of Adam Radwan, a role the former has assumed on just one other occasion for England.

Fans were also surprised to see two number eights on the bench in Sam Simmonds and Alex Dombrandt, each of whom have more experience in that position than the man chosen to start, Tom Curry.

But Jones—who coached Australia from 2001 to 2005—insisted it's all part of the plan in getting his best XV on the pitch against his home nation, who are targeting a swift response after falling to Scotland 15-13 last Sunday.

"We decided we will pick the best players and they will mix and match on the field to their strengths," Jones said at Thursday's press conference. "I have seen him [Tuilagi] play on the wing and he can handle 12, 13, 11, 14 – he can handle all of those with aplomb and he is in the best condition of his career.

"We want to use each players to their strengths and we realise that Australia are going to put a lot of questions to us. We believe this is the best backline to play against Australia."

Tuilagi, 30, made his only previous start on England's wings in a narrow 28-27 defeat to New Zealand in June 2014, when Stuart Lancaster was still at the team's helm.

It wasn't long after that summer tour that Tuilagi suffered a groin injury that prevented him from playing for England for just short of two years, hoping this wing appearance provides greater fortune.

What do you think was the biggest surprise in England's selection to face Australia? Let us know in the comments section.

The former wrecking ball has slimmed down since joining Sale last year—he now weighs a little more than 100 kilograms—and a new approach prioritising agility and mobility promises to boost his prospects on the wing.

That doesn't mean Tuilagi's physical attributes haven't played a role in his coach's logic, however.

"All I see is a powerful player who is in the best condition of his career that will add to the ball players to finish off movements that we have," Jones continued. "He will be able to play like a second or third centre.

"Last season [Gael] Fickou played on the wing for France and was outstanding, and the game lends itself to a powerhouse centre so we’re looking forward to him playing there."

Tuilagi and Curry won't be the only pair playing in less accustomed positions, either, as Owen Farrell reverts to the centre so that Marcus Smith can make his first Test start against elite opposition.

The Harlequins ace came off the bench to score in last Saturday's 69-3 throttling of Tonga, with expectations high for what Smith can produce against a higher-class adversary.

"Marcus knows he has to build his game and I have been really impressed with him since the summer tour," Jones said of the 22-year-old.

"This is his biggest Test, he hasn't played a Tier One country yet."

One can hardly blame Jones for attempting to make full use of the talent at his disposal, particularly after converted lock Courtney Lawes has proved to be a top talent at blindside flanker.

Critics will argue players should be picked on form in the positions they're used to at club level, but Jones isn't interested in fitting to the norm—particularly in a fixture that's very personal to him, it seems.

It always looked as though one of Tuilagi or Henry Slade would have to be dropped if Farrell were to play centre, but it's instead Radwan who has been dropped in the jumble.

It's worth noting the Newcastle Falcons winger did appear to be nursing a slight knock at the end of England's clash against Tonga, though it's uncertain if that was enough to rule him out this weekend.

Australia helped dump England out of their ill-fated home campaign at the 2015 Rugby World Cup, but Jones has since come in to lead the Red Rose to seven straight wins against his old side.

It's that kind of form that suggests the 61-year-old ought to be trusted in this of all fixtures, where Tuilagi is just one component in Jones' outside-the-box tactics.

England team to face Australia

(Backs) Freddie Steward; Manu Tuilagi, Henry Slade, Owen Farrell, Jonny May; Marcus Smith, Ben Youngs; Ellis Genge, Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler; Maro Itoje, Jonny Hill; Courtney Lawes, Sam Underhill, Tom Curry

Reps: Jamie Blamire, Bevan Rodd, Will Stuart, Charlie Ewels, Alex Dombrandt, Sam Simmonds, Raffi Quirke, Max Malins
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