Six Nations: Stuart Lancaster has no fears about new caps ahead of France clash
Last Updated: 27/01/14 10:00pm
England begin their Six Nations campaign against France on Saturday and Stuart Lancaster claims he won't be afraid to play any of his youngsters in Paris.
England coach Stuart Lancaster says he will have no hesitation handing out as many as three new caps in Saturday's Six Nations opener against France in Paris.
Exeter wing Jack Nowell, Bath star Anthony Watson and Northampton centre Luther Burrell could all start in a new-look backline at the Stade de France.
"There is a balance to strike, but I've always been reasonably confident to pick inexperienced players if I feel they're ready."
Gloucester flyer Jonny May, who has only one cap, is also challenging for a place in the wing in what looks certain to be a young and inexperienced line-up.
Lancaster insists that if he believes they are ready for one of the Six Nations' biggest fixtures, they will be thrown into battle.
"I've never shied away from giving people without much experience opportunities. At some point you have to do it," Lancaster said.
"I've never been afraid of giving people opportunities - this time two years ago I selected seven players with no caps for Scotland away.
"There is a balance to strike, but I've always been reasonably confident to pick inexperienced players if I feel they're ready.
"For me it's exciting to give young players opportunities, particularly if they've been performing well and showing it consistently at their clubs.
"At some point you have to make the step. There will be some people with less experience in the France game."
However, Lancaster also said that the experienced Chris Ashton, who has 37 caps, is a leading contender for a starting berth on the wing due to his impressive recent club form.
"After the autumn he went back to Saracens, worked on his game and has played well since," said the head coach.
"There are still areas of his game that he's working on, but his form since the autumn has been good.
"He's been playing in a Saracens side that's been winning. In terms of his reaction, it's been the reaction you'd want.
"The message to Chris has been to retain your point of difference - your tracking and try-scoring - but work on the timing of high ball receipts etc, and he's reacted well.
"In terms of tracking the ball and getting on the end of things, he's still the best."
Lancaster and his staff are likely to finalise their line-up on Tuesday, and will announce it on Thursday prior to their departure for Paris.
"You can watch as many games as you like, but it's only when you coach the players and talk to them one on one that you get a feel for whether they have the temperament to play in a game like this," Lancaster said.
"I trust my instincts in that regard. Last week was great to have that time with the players. Today and tomorrow (Tuesday) we'll finalise it."