England coach Lancaster expects big performance from recalled star players
ENGLAND head coach Stuart Lancaster believes the recall of Manu Tuilagi, Dylan Hartley and Courtney Lawes to his starting line-up and the impact players available to him on the bench can be a winning combination against France at Twickenham on Saturday.
Lancaster has opted for Tuilagi at centre in place of Billy Twelvetrees, while Hartley replaces Tom Youngs at hooker and lock Lawes comes in at blindside flanker in place of James Haskell as England face the latest test to their RBS Six Nations Grand Slam ambitions.
But while Lancaster is comfortable with his starting XV he is at pains to stress that the impact of his bench players could be crucial to the outcome.
"I don't think the game is going to be won and lost in the first half," he told Sky Sports 1.
"For me the games have three key components - one is the setpiece, one is the gainline and the other is having an impact in the second half, especially in the last 20 minutes.
"As the second half unfolds we are looking at players to come on and make an impact.
"The likes of Danny Care, who is desperately unlucky not to be starting. Also Billy's (Twelvetrees) passing game when the match opens up."
On his decision to start Tuilagi, after bringing him on from the bench against Ireland, Lancaster said: "Manu brings a lot to our game as you saw in the New Zealand match (autumn Test).
"I think Manu gives us good gainline options and also good options defensively."
As for the restoration of Hartley, Lancaster said: "Dylan has been patient. He is one of our most experienced players and he's a bigger, heavier man than Tom.
"Also part of the equation is Tom's dynamic impact when he comes on in the second half."
Lawes returns with Haskell's preparations disrupted by flu and Lancaster believes he can help counter the threat of the French from lineouts.
"Courtney brings a lot more than lineout presence," he said. "Defensively he is one of our best players.
"The lineout is a significant part of the game. France drive well at lineouts and we have good defensive options there to counter that in Courtney and Geoff Parling."
Lancaster's three changes to his starting line-up have been surpassed by France coach Philippe Saint-Andre, who has made eight changes to his.
Saint-Andre has opted for a new half-back pairing, with Morgan Parra and Francois Trinh-Duc replacing Maxime Machenaud and Frederic Michalak.
Vincent Clerc returns on the right wing, with Wesley Fofana switching to his preferred role of centre.
"It's interesting to see the French team and the changes they've made," said Lancaster.
"You look at the list of names and how many caps and experience they've got. There are some very good players there. I think it is a good side, a good mix."
Asked how hard he was finding it to decide on his tactics given the inconsistency and unpredictability of the French, Lancaster replied: "It's not hard. There is lots of footage for us to look at.
"We can look at their side and see the shape they are trying to play."