Owen Farrell to captain England in Dylan Hartley’s absence
Ben Te’o and Elliot Daly both return to Eddie Jones’ starting XV for key trip to France
Owen Farrell will captain England against France. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty
Eddie Jones has also dropped Mike Brown and recalled Elliot Daly and Ben Te’o, who replaces Jonathan Joseph, in what can be considered a bold selection for the trip to Paris. Hartley’s absence means Jamie George earns only his second England start in 24 appearances while Anthony Watson is named at full-back with Elliot Daly making his return on the wing. Te’o comes in at outside-centre for a match England almost certainly have to win, and quite possibly with a bonus point.
“Mike Brown has been excellent for us but he was a little bit off against Scotland and we’ve decided to start Anthony Watson there,” said Jones. “We want to attack a little bit more so Anthony starts at full back with Elliot Daly on the left wing and Jonny May on the right wing. It’s a great back three for us.”
“It was always the plan, we felt we’d need someone a bit bigger and stronger on a slower track at the Stade de France and this is why Ben Te’o starts,” said Jones.
Jones has repeatedly defended his decision to keep Hartley as his captain, despite criticism that he habitually leaves the field around the hour mark. Up until now the hooker has started all but one of the 26 Tests under Jones but his absence does allow Farrell the chance to gain experience in the role.
He is again named at inside-centre, continuing his 10-12 partnership with George Ford despite suggestions from Jones that he may consider changing it. Mako Vunipola – who keeps his place despite struggling badly against France’s Rabah Slimani in the past – is named vice-captain.
“Owen will be very proud to be captain but at the same time he is disappointed for Dylan to miss out through injury and he knows the position of captain carries a lot of responsibility,” Jones added.
While Hartley’s omission was enforced however, Brown’s place on the bench appears to demonstrate an attacking intent about this side. The back three of Watson, Jonny May and Daly started against Australia in the autumn, when Brown had a head injury but, apart from a 2016 match against Fiji, Jones has never before left the Harlequins full-back out of his starting lineup when he has been available.
Indeed, Jones lashed out a critics of Brown in a radio interview after his impressive performance against Wales but he was removed early against Scotland and Daly’s return to fitness – he will make his first appearance since December – seems to have forced Jones’s hand.
The selection of Te’o in place of Joseph, who drops to the bench, means England revert to their midfield pairing against Italy but Jones has resisted making any changes to a back-row which struggled against Scotland – sticking by Courtney Lawes, Chris Robshaw and Nathan Hughes, but both James Haskell and Sam Simmonds have been named on the bench.
Elsewhere in the pack, Maro Itoje and Joe Launchbury continue in the second row while Dan Cole is again at tighthead. Luke Cowan-Dickie is among the replacements in Hartley’s absence while Kyle Sinckler is also on the bench in place of Harry Williams. Joe Marler and Richard Wigglesworth – who again provides scrum-half cover for Danny Care – complete the bench.
France have replaced Lionel Beauxis with the more experienced François Trinh-Duc. The change at fly-half that sees the playmakers swap roles between the bench and starting XV is the only adjustment to the matchday 23 selected for the 34-17 victory over Italy.
England: Anthony Watson (Bath, 31 caps), Jonny May (Leicester, 32 caps), Ben Te’o (Worcester, 11 caps), Owen Farrell (Saracens, 56 caps), Elliot Daly (Wasps, 16 caps), George Ford (Leicester, 43 caps), Danny Care (Harlequins, 79 caps), Mako Vunipola (Saracens, 47 caps), Jamie George (Saracens, 23 caps), Dan Cole (Leicester, 80 caps), Joe Launchbury (Wasps, 50 caps), Maro Itoje (Saracens, 17 caps), Courtney Lawes (Northampton, 64 caps), Chris Robshaw (Harlequins, 62 caps), Nathan Hughes (Wasps, 13 caps). Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter, 4 caps), Joe Marler (Harlequins, 54 caps), Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins, 8 caps), James Haskell (Wasps, 75 caps), Sam Simmonds (Exeter, 5 caps), Richard Wigglesworth (Saracens, 29 caps), Jonathan Joseph (Bath, 38 caps), Mike Brown (Harlequins, 67 caps).