Lancaster picks inexperienced backline

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iol spt jan30 Lancaster Getty Images England coach Stuart Lancaster opted for speed over experience in his team for the Six Nations opener against France. Photo by: David Rogers

London - England will take on France in Paris on Saturday with a backline featuring two debutants and a one-cap winger after coach Stuart Lancaster opted for speed over experience in his team for the Six Nations opener.

As expected, slippery 20-year-old Jack Nowell has been rewarded for his promising displays for Exeter with the starting berth on the right wing - with regular number 14 Chris Ashton dropped from the squad.

Jonny May, another player with pace to burn, wins his second cap on the left having made his debut on last year's tour to Argentina as injury ruled out Marland Yarde and Christian Wade from the early Six Nations encounters.

The powerful Luther Burrell is the latest in a long line of players to be given a shot at centre and will link up with Billy Twelvetrees, with Brad Barritt, easing his way back after a lengthy injury, offering some experienced cover on the bench.

Danny Care, who dropped to third in the scrumhalf pecking order in November, goes straight into the starting team after his impressive recent showings for Harlequins, with 22-year-old Owen Farrell suddenly looking like the wise old head at flyhalf.

Care, Farrell and fullback Mike Brown have 81 caps between them while the two wings and two centres share only nine.

“I've always believed that if a player's ready and deserving of an opportunity, then we'll give it to him,” said Lancaster, who blooded seven new caps in his first game in charge two years ago.

“Luther Burrell is ready for the opportunity - he's done exceptionally well for his club and played in big European games.

“Jonny May has one cap and it's a big opportunity for him. You can see in the tries he's scored that he's a great broken-field runner with great pace and footwork.

“You watch Jack Nowell playing against Toulon - Bryan Habana and these sorts of guys - and I think he's ready.

“He is different - he breaks tackles, beats defenders and used to play fullback so is great under the high ball.

“Burrell has been around a bit longer. He's someone I've known since he was 15 and it was a great pleasure to me to tell him he was playing.”

There is a much more familiar look about the forwards, where Lancaster has suffered less with injury and named the same eight who performed superbly in November's narrow defeat by New Zealand.

“We felt the pack went well in the autumn and it's right to leave it unchanged,” Lancaster said ahead of Saturday's 1700 GMT Paris clash.

“But we have some quality players to come on off the bench, including two British and Irish Lions in Tom Youngs and Mako Vunipola.”

England have won six of their last seven games against France in the Six Nations and will be desperate to continue that form as they bid to win the title for only the second time since 2003.

“We've had a good two weeks and all the players have pushed hard for selection,” said Lancaster.

“We can't wait for Saturday.”


15-Mike Brown, 14-Jack Nowell, 13-Leroy Burrell, 12-Billy Twelvetrees, 11-Jonny May, 10-Owen Farrell, 9-Danny Care; 8-Billy Vunipola, 7-Chris Robshaw (captain), 6-Tom Wood, 5-Courtney Lawes, 4-Joe Launchbury, 3-Dan Cole, 2-Dylan Hartley, 1-Joe Marler.

Replacements: 16-Tom Youngs, 17-Mako Vunipola, 18-Henry Thomas, 19-Dave Attwood, 20-Ben Morgan, 21-Lee Dickson 22-Brad Barritt, 23-Alex Goode. – Reuters

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