England v France: George Furbank starts in Paris


George Furbank
Furbank’s last Test appearance was as a stand-in fly-half against Tonga in November
Venue: Stade de France Date: Saturday, 19 March Kick-off: 20:00 GMT
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live; live text commentary on the BBC Sport website & app.

George Furbank starts at full-back in a surprise tactical switch for England’s final-round Six Nations meeting with title favourites France on Saturday.

Leicester’s Freddie Steward, who has started at 15 for England’s previous four matches, swaps to the wing.

Sam Underhill comes into the back row in place of the injured Tom Curry.

Elsewhere Nick Isiekwe is in the second row for the suspended Charlie Ewels, while the experienced Ben Youngs replaces Harry Randall at scrum-half.

Will Stuart starts at tighthead prop after Kyle Sinckler, who came off with a head knock in last weekend’s defeat Ireland, came through return-to-play protocol but is only selected on the bench.

Short presentational grey line

England: Furbank; Steward, Marchant, Slade, Nowell; Smith, Youngs; Genge, George, Stuart, Itoje, Isiekwe, Lawes, Underhill, Simmonds.

Replacements:, Marler, Dolly, Sinckler, Chessum, Dombrandt, Randall, Ford, Daly

Short presentational grey line

England are attempting to avoid a second successive fifth-place finish in the Championship, with defeat potentially leaving only Italy below them in the table.

“This is our strongest 23 for the game against France,” said head coach Eddie Jones.

“We are disappointed not to be in the contention for the trophy but last week’s effort against Ireland was full of pride, energy and tactical discipline.

“We have focused on refreshing the team this week and we are ready to empty the tank on Saturday.”

France have made just one change to the starting XV that beat Wales last time out, with wing Damian Penaud coming back in after Covid.

Furbank call-up to counter France kicking game – Jones

George Furbank
Furbank’s last two England apparances have come at fly-half rather than full-back

Furbank made his Test debut as starting full-back in England’s last trip to Paris back in February 2020, but has been unable to pin down a regular starting spot since that 24-17 defeat.

He has made only another four England appearances, most recently appearing as a stand-in fly-half in November’s win over Tonga after illness and injury put Owen Farrell and Marcus Smith out of contention.

Jones said the Northampton back’s unexpected promotion is intended to counteract France’s strategy.

The hosts have kicked for more metres than any other team in this season’s tournament as they attempt to put their dangerous backline within range of the tryline.

“It is tactical about the way we think the game is going to be played,” Jones said of Furbank’s inclusion.

“France is the highest kicking team in the world so I don’t think they are going to deviate away from that too much.

“They come through the centre with their big forwards and once they have tied you up a bit they spread the ball to their backs, but they don’t do that without using their long kicking game to get them up the field.”

Jones added that he hoped that Bristol nine Randall, who started the matches against Italy, Wales and Ireland, could come off the bench to find space as the game opens up late on.

“We feel that Harry’s pace at the end of the game is going to be invaluable where they may be opportunities against a tiring defence,” he added.

Jones revealed that his squad have only gone through one meaningful training session since arriving in Paris after the exertions of their 14-man rearguard action against Ireland.

However, Sinckler has been even shorter of training time as he manages a back injury alongside mandatory medical checks for the effects of concussion.

“Kyle has had a difficult last two weeks,” said Jones. “The only training he did was today and that makes it difficult for him to start.

Underhill will play for England for the first time since starting at openside in England’s win over world champions South Africa in November after making his comeback from concussion and illness at the start of this year.

The BBC's Six Nations final round coverage starts with Wales v Italy on BBC One
Matches take place on Saturday, 19 March



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