Blindside role for Itoje

Thu, 02 Feb 2017 10:17

TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: England have made five changes to the starting XV that defeated Australia in November for their opening Six Nations clash against France.

Elliot Daly starts on the left wing with Jonny May installed on the right. In the scrum Joe Marler packs down at loosehead, Joe Launchbury is named in the second row and Maro Itoje starts at blindside flanker making up a matchday XV totalling 595 caps.

Itoje, a lock by trade, will make his first Test start in the No.6 jersey after former England captain Chris Robshaw was ruled out of the whole Six Nations with a shoulder injury while in the front row loosehead prop Marler has made a quicker than expected return from a fractured leg.

"We've been able to select a very strong and experienced team to play against France and we are excited to get the tournament underway," said England head coach Eddie Jones.

"There’s a great rivalry between the countries so we're looking forward to a great occasion playing against one of England's oldest foes.

"We are ambitious and want to be the number one team in the world."

On the bench, there are returns for loosehead prop Matt Mullan, flank James Haskell and wing Jack Nowell.

"In rugby terms, you've traditionally got two contrasting styles – French flair and England's dogged conservative approach, but we want to be absolutely daring against the French in this first game and set the standard for the tournament," added Jones.

"Guy Noves likes a big team. He picks a traditional French forward pack with squat front-rowers who scrummage well, big locks who give a lot of ballast and athletic back-rowers. It's based on size and crunching that gain line, getting an off-load and then playing with flair. Of course, this gives you an opportunity when you've got a big forward pack against you and we intend to exploit that.

"We want to get better all of the time, we are ambitious and we want to be the number one team in the world.

"It's exciting to be back at Twickenham. We've got great supporters and we’re looking forward to hearing them turn up the volume on Saturday."

England: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Jonny May, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12. Owen Farrell, 11 Elliot Daly, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 Tom Wood, 6 Maro Itoje, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley (captain), 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Matt Mullan, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Teimana Harrison, 20 James Haskell, 21 Danny Care, 22 Ben Te'o, 23 Jack Nowell.

Date: Saturday, February 4
Venue: Twickenham, London
Kick-off: 16.50 (16.50 GMT; 17.50 CET)
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant referees: Glen Jackson (New Zealand), Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
TMO: Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland)

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