BAGSHOT, England (Reuters) - Winger Chris Ashton and lock Courtney Lawes will start for England in their Six Nations clash with France at Twickenham on Sunday in the only two changes to the team that so impressively beat holders Ireland 32-20 in last week’s opener.
Ashton, who came off the bench late in the Dublin game, will be making his first Six Nations start for six years, and replaces Jack Nowell, who drops to the bench.
Lawes, also impressive as a replacement last week, comes in for the injured Maro Itoje, with Joe Launchbury added to the replacements.
Props Dan Cole, who has not played for England for 11 months, and Ben Moon, who made his debut last November, are also on the bench as coach Eddie Jones looks to combat an enormous French pack. Winger Joe Cokanasiga and flanker Brad Shields were the men trimmed from Jones’s provisional squad.
“After the Ireland game we have had to refocus and reset,” Jones said.
“The French are always an interesting side to play against. They are full of talent, they have a lot of unpredictability so it’s hard to prepare tactically against them so we have had a real focus on ourselves.”
Ashton, who will start on the right wing with Jonny May on the left, has scored 20 tries in his 43 games though has not managed one in his five games against France.
“We have gone for Chris Ashton on the wing - we think he might sneak us a try early in the game,” Jones said. “Jack Nowell was brilliant against Ireland and he’ll play a significant role for us off the bench.” France got off to a rocky start last week, starting well but blowing a 16-0 halftime lead to lose 24-19 at home to Wales after a series of blunders. They also have a dire 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.
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