Owen Farrell will captain England for the first time after being named to lead the side against France in tomorrow’s Six Nations clash in Paris.
Regular skipper Dylan Hartley has been ruled out with a calf injury sustained during training earlier this week and the Northampton hooker’s place in the front row will be taken by long-serving deputy Jamie George. Hartley has been a constant presence since Eddie Jones took over as coach, starting all but one of his 26 Tests in charge of the side.
Prop Mako Vunipola, who plays alongside inside centre Farrell at European club champions Saracens, will be England’s vice-captain in Paris.
“Owen will be very proud to be captain but at the same time he’s disappointed for Dylan to miss out through injury. He knows the position of captain carries a lot of responsibility,” Jones said in a Rugby Football Union statement announcing his side yesterday.
“We need to make sure we have one strong voice among the forward leaders and Mako has been doing some great work behind the scenes,” Jones added. “He will step up and take that on officially against France.”
George coming in for Hartley was the only alteration to England’s pack.
But Australian boss Jones has shaken up his back division following England’s 25-13 defeat by Scotland at Murrayfield last time out — just the second loss of his Red Rose reign.
Anthony Watson starts at fullback in place of the benched Mike Brown, long a favourite of Jones, with the fit-again Elliot Daly moving into the left-wing berth vacated by Watson’s positional switch.
Meanwhile Ben Te’o, a powerful-ball carrier, comes back in at outside centre instead of Jonathan Joseph.
Both Brown and Joseph are on a much-changed bench that sees veteran back-row James Haskell and fit-again loose forward Sam Simmonds returning to England’s matchday 23 along with Harlequins prop Kyle Sinckler.
Defeat by Scotland at Murrayfield ended England’s hopes of a second Grand Slam in three years but Jones’s men could yet retain their Six Nations title.
“This game is about the opportunity for the team to move forward and we want a response from the players this week,” said former Australia and Japan coach Jones.
“Against France we want to be brutal and aggressive on the gain line and to play with a great tactical discipline,” he explained.
France, who beat perennial strugglers Italy 34-17 last time out for their first win of this Six Nations, made one change when coach Jacques Brunel announced his side earlier yesterday, with Francois Trinh-Duc replacing Lionel Beauxis at fly-half.
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