SA vs ENG: Woakes replaces Anderson for 1st Test

Woakes, 26, will play his first Test match since August 2014, after being recalled in place of Anderson, who was ruled out of the opener of the four-match series with a calf injury.

Chris Woakes looks on during England nets and training session at Kingsmead.   -  Getty Images

England captain Alastair Cook confirmed on Friday that Chris Woakes will replace injured James Anderson for the Boxing Day Test against South Africa in Durban.

Woakes, 26, will play his first Test match since August 2014, after being recalled in place of Anderson, who was ruled out of the opener of the four-match series with a calf injury.

"Chris is going to play. I think anyone who's seen practice over the last 24 hours will have seen we've concentrated mainly on the 11 so it's no surprise really," Cook told reporters on his 31st birthday.

"What an opportunity it is for him to play. It gives up great depth in our batting and he's been around the side for a long time and now he's got an opportunity."

However, Cook conceded the loss of Anderson was a sizeable blow, with England unwilling to take any chances with their record wicket-taker.

"Of course it's a huge loss. When you take out (426) wickets and 110 games of experience it's going to be a big loss, of course it is. But we can't do anything about that," Cook said.

"As always you try to look on the positive side and not let anything get you down really about it. He's more disappointed than anyone else but it gives Chris a great opportunity."

Alex Hales, 26, is set to make his Test debut at the top of the order alongside Cook, becoming the England skipper's eighth different opening partner since 2012.

"He's ready to play he's waited for his chance and earned his right to selection. He's been around the squad in the UAE, he knows what it's about," Cook said, when asked about Hales.

"He's got a Twenty20 international hundred and a one-day hundred so he can certainly play and I hope he's looking forward to the challenge and showing people what he can do."