RBS Six Nations: France v England preview
Last Updated: 02/02/14 2:01pm
England take on France in a mouthwatering Six Nations opener in Paris on Saturday as coach Stuart Lancaster opts for speed over experience in his backline.
Northampton centre Luther Burrell and Exeter wing Jack Nowell will be making their debuts in the Stade de France clash, a tough baptism for both men. Gloucester wing Jonny May, meanwhile, will be winning only his second cap.
It means full-back Mike Brown, fly-half Owen Farrell and inside centre Billy Twelvetrees will be looked upon to guide the rookies alongside them.
The combination of Burrell and Twelvetrees in midfield is particularly surprising given that although Manu Tuilagi is injured, the experienced Brad Barritt is back from injury.
Scrum-half Danny Care, a veteran of 42 Tests, returns to the starting XV for the first time since playing against Italy in last season's competition.
Care, Farrell and Brown have 81 caps between them, but there are only nine Test appearances between the rest of England's backs.
Despite that fact, head coach Stuart Lancaster insists he was not taking an excessive risk by fielding novices Nowell, May and Burrell, and has no doubts that his side are ready for the big occasion.
"My instincts after the three days told me that Jack (Nowell), Luther (Burrell) and Jonny (May) were ready."
"The upside is that they have no fear. There is no fear factor that sometimes can build during players' careers in international rugby," he said.
"Ultimately I've gone with my gut instinct, which was probably formulated after watching training on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday last week.
"Form, potential and consistency of performance in the Premiership and Europe have been factors."
He added: "My instincts after the three days told me that Jack, Luther and Jonny were ready."
Did you know ...
England have won six of their last seven games against France in the RBS Six Nations.
England have won six of their last seven games against Les Bleus in the tournament and will be desperate to continue that form as they bid to win the title for only the second time since 2003.
Meanwhile, France head coach Philippe Saint-Andre has handed 22-year-old fly-half Jules Plisson his first cap.
Plisson will be partnered at half-back by Jean-Marc Doussain of Toulouse, while his Stade Francais team-mate Alexandre Flanquart is preferred to Yoann Maestri in the second row.
"A win would give us a lot of confidence and instil plenty of positivity in the group, but a defeat could spoil the Six Nations."
Having been in outstanding form at club level, Plisson will look to lift a France side that struggled in 2013, losing eight times in 11 matches. Along with Doussain, who is also 22, they will form the 10th different half-back pairing in 22 matches under Saint-Andre.
"A win would give us a lot of confidence and instil plenty of positivity in the group, but a defeat could spoil the Six Nations," said Saint-Andre.
"The first international match often sets the tempo for your season. We know that because last year we had a defeat in Italy (23-18) and then we had a difficult year.
"You can't be the favourites when you finished last in the 2013 Six Nations! We are outsiders. The favourites are the Welsh and the English.
"We are just going to concentrate on Saturday's match and try to have a much better 2014 than 2013."
France: 15 Dulin 14 Huget, 13 Bastareaud, 12 Fofana, 11 Medard 10 Plisson, 9 Doussain; 1 Domingo, 2 Kayser, 3 Mas, 4 Flanquart, 5 Pape (capt), 6 Nyanga, 7 Le Roux, 8 Picamoles.
Replacements: 16 Szarzewski, 17 Forestier, 18 Slimani, 19 Maestri, 20 Burban, 21 Chouly, 22 Machenaud, 23 Fickou.
England: 15 Brown, 14 Nowell, 13 Burrell, 12 Twelvetrees, 11 May, 10 Farrell, 9 Care; 1 Marler, 2 Hartley, 3 Cole, 4 Launchbury, 5 Lawes, 6 Wood, 7 Robshaw (capt), 8 Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Youngs, 17 Vunipola, 18 Thomas, 19 Attwood, 20 Morgan, 21 Dickson, 22 Barritt, 23 Goode.
Six Nations 2014: France v England
Dewi Morris praises Billy Vunipola, Danny Care and Owen Farrell despite England's loss to France.
England head coach Stuart Lancaster has defended his use of replacements during their 26-24 defeat by France in Paris.
England captain Chris Robshaw admits his side cannot afford any more slow starts in the Six Nations this season.
- Lancaster proud in defeat
- France snatch last-gasp win
- Catt: Wings have free rein
- Backing for England new boys
- Backing Les Bleus
- Pressure to perform
- Pre-match nerves for Burrell
- Lancaster: Debutants to cope
- The next level
- England name Nowell, Burrell
- Plisson to start for France
- Robshaw: Beating France a must
- England ponder prop selection
- Vunipola relishing French test
- Ashton axed from England squad
- Lawes: Keep your discipline
- Rowntree: England pack a punch
- Baptism of Fire