February 8, 2019 / 12:23 PM / 12 days ago

Rugby-Ashton, Lawes start as Jones promises England improvement

* Ashton on the wing, Nowell drops to bench

* Lawes replaces injured Itjoe, Launchbury among replacements

* Jones says England will be better after great win in Ireland

By Mitch Phillips

BAGSHOT, England, Feb 8 (Reuters) - After England delivered what was widely acclaimed as the best performance of his reign to beat holders Ireland last week Eddie Jones has promised that they will be even better against France in their second Six Nations match on Sunday.

Jones announced a team on Friday showing two changes from the 32-20 Dublin victory as Chris Ashton replaced Jack Nowell on the wing and lock Courtney Lawes starts in place of the injured Maro Itoje. Joe Launchbury brings more second-row bulk to the bench.

Props Dan Cole, who has not played for England for 11 months, and Ben Moon, who made his debut in November, are also among the replacements to combat an enormous French pack. Winger Joe Cokanasiga and flanker Brad Shields were the men trimmed from the provisional squad.

“I’ve got no doubt we’ll be better this week. Last week was just the start,” Jones told reporters.

“This week, even our training yesterday, was of a much higher quality than we had in Portugal. I’ve got no doubt we are going to be better.”

It was a bold statement by the Australian following a superb all-round show against the Grand Slam champions but captain Owen Farrell agreed.

“It’s not about Ireland any more, it’s about us moving forward,” he said. “We have spent a bit more time together which is brilliant, we feel like we are building something and getting better the more time we spend together.”

Ashton has scored 20 tries in 43 England matches, though has not managed one in five games against France.

As ever, Jones played down the significance of his switch with Nowell saying only that he had a “gut feeling” that Ashton, who will be making his first Six Nations start for six years, would be right for the beginning of the match and Nowell was better suited for the latter stages.

“Jack was absolutely outstanding for us last week, so it’s just a different role for him,” he said. “At the end of the game his work-rate is going to be important.”

France got off to a rocky beginning last week, blowing a 16-0 halftime lead to lose 24-19 at home to Wales after a series of blunders. They also have a poor recent record at Twickenham, having won once there in the Six Nations this century.

They have made six changes for Sunday’s game (1500GMT), including the return of giant centre Mathieu Bastareaud.

“They rely a lot on individual talents,” Jones said. “They’ve got guys that can break the game open so we just have to be very well organised have that relentless attitude.”

Farrell too was aware that after overcoming the highly-coached Irish side, England will have to answer different questions on what is likely to be a wet and windy day.

“They are a very big team, very tough to play against,” said the flyhalf. “They can suck you in by playing one way and delivering in another. If you switch off for two seconds they will punish you because they have dangerous players across the park. We have to make sure that we are fully connected in what we are doing as a group and ready for anything.”

England team to face France: 15 Elliot Daly (Wasps, 26 caps) 14 Chris Ashton (Sale Sharks, 43 caps) 13 Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs, 18 caps) 12 Manu Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers, 28 caps) 11 Jonny May (Leicester Tigers, 41 caps) 10 Owen Farrell (Saracens, 66 caps) (c) 9 Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 81 caps) 1 Mako Vunipola (Saracens, 52 caps) 2 Jamie George (Saracens, 33 caps) 3 Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins, 18 caps) 4 Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, 69 caps) 5 George Kruis (Saracens, 28 caps) 6 Mark Wilson (Newcastle Falcons, 9 caps) 7 Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, 6 caps) 8 Billy Vunipola (Saracens, 37 caps) Replacements (249 caps) 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, 8 caps) 17 Ben Moon (Exeter Chiefs, 4 caps) 18 Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers, 82 caps) 19 Joe Launchbury (Wasps, 54 caps) 20 Nathan Hughes (Wasps, 19 caps) 21 Dan Robson (Wasps, uncapped) 22 George Ford (Leicester Tigers, 52 caps) 23 Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs, 30 caps) (Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Toby Davis and Ed Osmond)

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