BAGSHOT – England coach Eddie Jones has dropped Jack Nowell from his starting side and recalled Chris Ashton on the right wing to play against France in the Six Nations at Twickenham on Sunday.
Ashton came off the bench to replace Nowell six minute before the end of England’s impressive 33-20 first-round win away to reigning Six Nations champions Ireland last weekend.
The 31-year-old Sale flyer knows France well, having returned to England from Top 14 club Toulon before the start of this season.
Sunday’s match will be Ashton’s first start in the Six Nations since 2013.
The other change to the side announced Friday is in the pack where Courtney Lawes comes into the second row after Maro Itoje suffered a knee injury against Ireland in Dublin.
Front rows Dan Cole and Ben Moon, as well as second row Joe Launchbury, are included on the bench for the first time in this Six Nations.
“We have gone for Chris Ashton on the wing; we think he might sneak us a try early in the game,” said Jones of the 31-year-old, who has scored 20 tries in 43 Tests.
“Jack Nowell was brilliant against Ireland and he’ll play a significant role for us off the bench,” the Australian added.
Turning to the second row, Jones said: “It is unfortunate Maro is injured but he has been rehabbing well so we are hopeful he will be back earlier than maybe first predicted.
“We have got great depth in the squad so Joe Launchbury and Courtney Lawes will fill his shoes very well.”
England, again captained by fly-half Owen Farrell, will be up against a France side looking to bounce back from the shock of squandering a 16-0 half-time lead before losing 24-19 to Wales in Paris last weekend.
“After the Ireland game we have had to refocus and reset,” said Jones, speaking before France announced their side for Twickenham earlier Friday.
“The French are always an interesting side to play against,” said the former Australia and Japan coach.
“They are full of talent, they have a lot of unpredictability so it’s hard to prepare tactically against them so we have had a real focus on ourselves.”
England have won nine of the last 12 Six Nations games against France, with Les Bleus’ last win over the Red Rose at Twickenham an 18-17 success back in 2005.
England team to play France in a Six Nations international at Twickenham on Sunday (1500 GMT kick-off):
Elliot Daly; Chris Ashton, Henry Slade, Manu Tuilagi, Jonny May; Owen Farrell (capt), Ben Youngs;Billy Vunipola, Tom Curry, Mark Wilson; George Kruis, Courtney Lawes; Kyle Sinckler, Jamie George, Mako Vunipola
Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Ben Moon, Dan Cole, Joe Launchbury, Nathan Hughes, Dan Robson, George Ford, Jack Nowell
Agence France-Presse (AFP)