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Hodgson to try Jones experiment for Italy friendly

March 31, 2015 1:31 AM
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Hodgson to try Jones experiment for Italy friendly

Roy Hodgson is preparing a radically different England line-up against Italy in Turin tonight with Phil Jones in holding midfield and Theo Walcott partnering Harry Kane in attack, on the occasion of the Tottenham Hotspur striker's first start for his country.

It would also mean Wayne Rooney starting behind Kane and Walcott at the tip of the diamond-shaped midfield, which has proved successful for England in their post-World Cup overhaul. Rooney has played as a striker ever since Brazil, where he was moved around the team during the World Cup finals to accommodate Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling.

With a depleted 20-man squad for the game at Juventus Stadium, Hodgson said that the match was an opportunity to experiment with players although the only two starters whom he would confirm were Rooney and Kane. Should he go ahead and pick Walcott in his first XI, it would be the first time the Arsenal man has started for England since the 2014 World Cup qualifier against Ukraine in September 2013.

Jones has played in holding midfield for England before, in their 1-0 win over Spain at Wembley in November 2011 under Fabio Capello. He played just the first half before being replaced by Jack Rodwell and while it was not considered an unqualified success he acquitted himself reasonably well.

Even against an Italy team which is missing a number of key players the game will be another tough examination of Jones' credentials in a position he rarely plays at Manchester United. In the Italy team that Antonio Conte announced at his press conference there was no Marco Verratti, the Paris Saint-Germain midfielder.

Hodgson said that his side's system would be "slightly different" from the one used against Lithuania in the 4-0 win on Friday. "That's required because we had a lot of front players available for Lithuania, but we lost two of them, Raheem Sterling and Danny Welbeck, which has changed my thinking.

While Hodgson confirmed that his captain Rooney was starting the game he would not be drawn on the specifics of where the United man would be playing. "I don't want to be pinned down to two front players with Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney," Hodgson said.

"We might do something a bit different. I'm pleased for them both. I've been pleased with Wayne for three years. Harry Kane, it's a fairytale at the moment. It doesn't get much better than a debut goal. It'll be tougher test (against Italy), but he'll start."


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