Thu. Sep 23rd, 2021

Eddie Jones has finally given Max Malins the start his form and class warrant at fullback, replacing the too long misfiring Elliot Daly who moves to the bench for an otherwise unchanged backline. In the forwards, Luke Cowan-Dickie’s abrasive energy and try-scoring record is preferred to Jamie George and Charlie Ewels starts at lock, replacing Jonny Hill. The Bath man’s steady power appears more appealing to Jones early in the match than Jonny Hill’s sometimes unpredictable temperament.

Jones has this week gone for three backs on the bench, featuring the return of Ollie Lawrence.

It appears that long Covid is not a worry for France as a largely first choice team emerges from their period of isolation. Virimi Vakatawa is back at centre, with Teddy Thomas ad the classy Damian Penaud on the wings. Much of the game with depend on how those two handle the peppering they will receive from England’s kicking game. In that regard, you have to say France will miss the injured Gabin Villière.

Romain Taofifenua comes in for the injured Bernard le Roux in the pack, while Dylan Cretin starts in the back row.

Keep your eyes on the France bench as Romain Ntamack, their insouciant superstar of 2020 alongside Dupont, will make his return at some point in the game.

England: Max Malins; Anthony Watson, Henry Slade, Owen Farrell (captain), Jonny May; George Ford, Ben Youngs; Mako Vunipola, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, Charlie Ewels, Mark Wilson, Tom Curry, Billy Vunipola.

Replacements: Jamie George, Ellis Genge, Will Stuart, Jonny Hill, Ben Earl, Dan Robson, Ollie Lawrence, Elliot Daly.

France: Brice Dulin; Teddy Thomas, Virimi Vakatawa, Gael Fickou, Damian Penaud; Matthieu Jalibert, Antoine Dupont; Cyril Baille, Julien Marchand, Mohamed Haouas, Romain Taofifenua, Paul Willemse, Dylan Cretin, Charles Ollivon (captain), Gregory Alldritt.

Replacements: Camille Chat, Jean-Baptiste Gros, Dorian Aldegheri, Cyril Cazeaux, Cameron Woki, Anthony Jelonch, Baptiste Serin, Romain Ntamack.

France assistant coach Shaun Edwards during the warm up.

France assistant coach Shaun Edwards during the warm up. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/NMC Pool/The Guardian

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