Courtney Lawes and Chris Ashton start for England against France

  • Courtney Lawes and Chris Ashton start for England against France

Courtney Lawes and Chris Ashton start for England against France

England have sprung a surprise by naming Chris Ashton in place of Jack Nowell for Sunday's Guinness Six Nations clash with France at Twickenham.

Chris Ashton is named on the right wing in place of Jack Nowell who will be among the replacements on Sunday. "This week, I'd say my role is becoming less and less significant - and that's the way it should be, because the players are doing more and more".

Lock Courtney Lawes is promoted from the bench to replace the injured Maro Itoje in the second change from the starting XV that crushed Ireland in Dublin.

Itoje was expected to be missing until the final rounds, but he could now be back sooner than expected from his grade two medial ligament tear, although Jones declined to reveal whether that would be in time for the February 23 appointment with Wales.

"We've got great depth in the squad so Joe Launchbury and Courtney Lawes will fill Maro's shoes very well".

Props Dan Cole, who has not played for England for 11 months, and Ben Moon, who made his debut last November, are also on the bench as coach Eddie Jones looks to combat an enormous French pack. The other player to miss the cut is rookie Bath wing Joe Cokanasiga, who is continuing his recovery from a knee injury. "By Sunday we'll be at our best".

The rugby league convert has had to sit and watch five consecutive Six Nations tournaments since his last championship appearance - admittedly not one he wants to remember - and despite finding his feet in France by breaking the Top 14 record for most tries in a single season with his 24 in 23 matches, the carrot was dangled to return with Sale Sharks and reignite his worldwide career.

"He's a finisher. We feel that maybe early in the game, as he did against New Zealand, he can find the line for us".

Jones spoke yesterday of Ashton's "unrelenting desire" to play for England since he returned to the Premiership with Sale Sharks this season, describing the 31-year-old as a "try poacher" and added: "Perseverance is a big thing in high performance sport". It's hard to prepare tactically against them so we have had a real focus on ourselves.

France have made six changes to their team after surrendering a 16-point half-time lead in last weekend's defeat to Wales, with powerhouse centre Mathieu Bastareaud recalled to the side.

It was a bold statement by the Australian following a superb all-round show against the Grand Slam champions but captain Owen Farrell agreed. Ben Youngs; 1. Mako Vunipola, 2. Courtney Lawes, 5. George Kruis, 6.

Replacements: L Cowan-Dickie (Exeter), B Moon (Exeter), D Cole (Leicester), J Launchbury (Wasps), N Hughes (Wasps), D Robson (Wasps), G Ford (Leicester), J Nowell (Exeter).