Chris Ashton returns to England team to face France
Meanwhile, Toulon centre Mathieu Bastareaud comes into the visitors starting lineup
England’s Chris Ashton will start their Six Nations meeting against France on Sunday. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho
Six Nations: England v France
Kick off: 3pm, Sunday. Venue: Twickenham. How to follow: The Irish Times liveblog will begin at 2.30pm. On TV: Virgin Media One and UTV.
Chris Ashton has been recalled to the England starting line-up to face France in one of two changes made by Eddie Jones. Ashton comes on to the right wing in place of Jack Nowell for his first Six Nations start in six years while Courtney Lawes replaces the injured Maro Itoje in the second row.
Ashton came off the bench in the closing stages of last week’s victory over Ireland but has been promoted for only his third start under Eddie Jones. He made his first appearance for four years during the autumn and scored his 20th international try in the first minute against New Zealand the following week.
Nowell excelled in his roaming role against Ireland and can consider himself unfortunate to be relegated to the bench but Ashton’s try-scoring threat has ultimately won him the nod. He is also familiar with a number of the French side, having scored a record 24 tries in 23 appearances in the Top 14 for Toulon last season. This season he has eight tries in nine matches for Sale after a suspension ruled him out of the first seven weeks of the campaign.
Lawes meanwhile, is rewarded for an impressive showing off the bench in Dublin, joining George Kruis in the second row while otherwise Jones sticks with the side that delivered arguably England’s best performance to date since he took charge. Joe Launchbury, who missed out on the match-day squad against Ireland, is on the bench, along with the props Dan Cole and Ben Moon, who have replaced Harry Williams and Ellis Genge respectively.
There is no place for Brad Shields in the squad with Jones preferring the added bulk Nathan Hughes provides while Dan Robson, who is still awaiting his first cap having been the only member of the England squad to remain on the bench in Dublin, is again on the bench.
Meanwhile, Toulon centre Mathieu Bastareaud has been recalled to the France side.
The experienced defensive lynchpin was left out of the side that suffered a 24-19 defeat to Wales in Paris last Friday, despite Les Bleus leading 16-0 at the interval.
Bastareaud’s return is one of six changes to the side by head coach Jacques Brunel.
“I explained last week the tenure of Romain Ntamack and Wesley Fofana, noting that Mathieu Bastareaud remained an important option for us and that he was important in our system and our team,” Brunel said at a press conference, reported on L’Equipe.
“Today, it seems appropriate for us to do it because it seems to us to be an important option against England.
“The option of Mathieu, we know it, we know the impact it can have, and against the power of the English in the middle of the field, including via Manu Tuilagi, it can have an interesting impact.”
Geoffrey Doumayrou returns in the centres, Yacouba Camara in the third row, with lock Felix Lambey and prop Demba Bamba also starting at Twickenham.
ENGLAND: E Daly; C Ashton, H Slade, M Tuilagi, J May; O Farrell (capt), B Youngs; M Vunipola, J George, K Sinckler, C Lawes, G Kruis, M Wilson, T Curry, B Vunipola.
Replacements: L Cowan-Dickie, B Moon, D Cole, J Launchbury, N Hughes, D Robson, G Ford, J Nowell.
FRANCE: Y Huget; D Penaud, M Bastareaud, G Doumayrou, G Fickou; C Lopez, M Parra; J Poirot, G Guirado (capt), D Bamba, S Vahaamhina, F Lambey, Y Camara, A Iturria, L Picamoles.
Replacements: P Bourgarit, D Priso, D Aldegheri, P Willemse, G Alldritt, A Dupont, R Ntamack, T Ramos.