Lancaster putting England in fast lane
England will take on France in Paris tomorrow with a backline featuring two debutants and a one-cap winger after coach Stuart Lancaster opted for speed over experience in his team for the Six Nations opener.
As expected, slippery 20-year-old Jack Nowell has been rewarded for his promising displays for Exeter with the starting berth on the right wing – with regular No 14 Chris Ashton dropped from the squad.
Jonny May, another player with pace to burn, wins his second cap on the left having made his debut on last year's tour to Argentina as injury ruled out Marland Yarde and Christian Wade.
The powerful Luther Burrell is the latest in a long line of players to be given a shot at centre and will link up with Billy Twelvetrees, with Brad Barritt, easing his way back after a lengthy injury, offering some experienced cover on the bench.
Danny Care, who dropped to third in the scrum-half pecking order in November, goes straight into the starting team after his impressive recent showings for Harlequins, with 22-year-old Owen Farrell suddenly looking like the wise old head at out-half.
Care, Farrell and full-back Mike Brown have 81 caps between them while the two wings and two centres share only nine.
"I've always believed that if a player's ready and deserving of an opportunity, then we'll give it to him," said Lancaster.
"Luther Burrell is ready for the opportunity – he's done exceptionally well for his club and played in big European games.
"Jonny May has one cap and it's a big opportunity for him. You can see in the tries he's scored that he's a great broken-field runner with great pace and footwork.
"You watch Jack Nowell playing against Toulon – Bryan Habana and these sorts of guys – and I think he's ready."
England have won six of their last seven games against France in the Six Nations and will be desperate to continue that form as they bid to win the title for only the second time since 2003.
Meanwhile, Stade Francais out-half Jules Plisson will make his France debut in the Stade de France clash and will be partnered at half-back by Toulouse's Jean-Marc Doussain.
The 22-year-old has won Les Bleus coach Philippe Saint-Andre's vote for the playmaker role in a team captained by Plisson's club colleague Pascal Pape.
With flanker Thierry Dusautoir sidelined, Racing Metro openside Bernard Le Roux will pack down alongside experienced back-rowers Yannick Nyanga and Louis Picamoles.
FRANCE – B Dulin; Y Huget , M Bastareaud, W Fofana, M Medard; J Plisson , J-M Doussain; T Domingo, B Kayser, N Mas, A Flanquart, P Pape, Y Nyanga, B Le Roux, L Picamoles. Reps: D Szarzewski, Y Forestier, R Slimani, Y Maestri, A Burban, D Chouly, M Machenaud, G Fickou.
ENGLAND – M Brown; J Nowell, L Burrell, B Twelvetrees, J May; O Farrell, D Care; J Marler, D Hartley, D Cole, J Launchbury, C Lawes, T Wood, C Robshaw (capt), B Vunipola. Reps: T Youngs, M Vunipola, H Thomas, D Attwood, B Morgan, L Dickson, B Barritt, A Goode.