Centre Mathieu Bastareaud returns for France’s Six Nations fixture against England on Sunday as South Africa-born lock Paul Willemse is dropped to the bench among six changes, the French Rugby Federation announced.
The experienced Bastareaud, who has 50 caps, was not included for last weekend’s loss to Wales in the competition’s opening game but is recalled for the trip to Twickenham.
La Rochelle’s Geoffrey Doumayrou joins Bastareaud in the midfield as Wesley Fofana is sidelined by a thigh injury and teenager Romain Ntamack falls to the bench.
Coach Jacques Brunel said Bastareaud was being recalled to counter England’s physical strength.
“We know the impact he will have. Against the power they have in midfield which has been strengthened by Manu Tuilagi he can have an interesting impact,” Brunel said.
“He’s important for the team as a whole. It’s important that he starts because he’s an important option to face England,” he added.
Bastareaud said he was too old to have bitter feelings after missing out on selection last week.
“I’m 30, I’ve learned to be above the idea of being vengeful. Choices were made, you can like them or dislike them, but you have to accept them,” he said.
“We’re going to England without much to lose because everyone thinks we’re going to get thrashed. We have to go there and try things. It’s up to us to go there and cause problems,” he added.
Bastareaud and Doumayrou were Brunel’s starting midfield partnership for six of 11 games last year including the 22-16 Six Nations victory over Eddie Jones’ team in Paris.
Willemse, who made his France debut against Warren Gatland’s side, is replaced by 24-year-old Felix Lambey who will start his first Test match after three appearances as a substitute.
The other changes see youngster Demba Bamba start his maiden Test at tight-head prop instead of injured Uini Atonio, flanker Yacouba Camara is in for Wenceslas Lauret who misses out completely and Stade Francais’ Gael Fickou is brought in on the left wing.
The shuffle of the back three is forced because of Maxime Medard’s thigh problem as Yoann Huget wears the full-back’s shirt.
Toulouse pair Thomas Ramos and Dorian Aldegheri could make their international debuts as replacements.
Meanwhile, England coach Eddie Jones has dropped Jack Nowell from his starting side and recalled Chris Ashton on the right wing 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.
“We can’t wait to play in front of our supporters, I’m sure they will be buoyant by the first round results and we promise we will play a better game on Sunday,” said Jones.
Stats good to know
- France have not won in the Guinness Six Nations at Twickenham since 2005
- 11 of the last 12 clashes between the team have been decided by ten points or less
- Eddie Jones’ England have only lost two Tests at Twickenham since he took over at the end of 2015
- Chris Ashton last started a Championship game for England back in 2013
- England have 249 caps of experience on their bench, France a combined total of just 25
Six Nations: England vs France teams
England (15-1): 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
France (15-1): Yoann Huget, Damien Penaud, Mathieu Bastareaud, Geffroy Doumayrou, Gael Fickou; Camille Lopez, Morgan Parra; Louis Picamoles, Arthur Iturria, Yacouba Camara, Felix Lambey, Sebastien Vahaamahina, Demba Bamba, Guilhem Guirado, Jefferson Poirot.
Replacements: Pierre Bourgarit, Dany
England vs France: Head-to-head and season results
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