Wednesday 16 October 2019

Geoff Parling promoted to England's starting XV for France showdown

Geoff Parling
Geoff Parling

Duncan Bech

England have promoted Geoff Parling to the second row and recalled Nick Easter to the bench for Saturday's decisive RBS 6 Nations clash with France at Twickenham.

The solitary change to the starting XV that toppled Scotland 25-13 last weekend sees Parling replace Dave Attwood, who has been dropped from the 23 altogether.

Instead, head coach Stuart Lancaster has looked to Easter to provide lock cover among the replacements as England aim to clinch a first Championship since 2011.

"Geoff did well off the bench against Scotland and now that he has got some games under his belt we feel it is the right time to start him and use his experience and quality in the starting line-up," Lancaster said.

"The same goes for Nick Easter, who has really impressed in camp and in his appearances off the bench.

"Nick is a quality ball carrier and great defender - things we feel we'll need in the latter stages of the game."

England were delighted by Parling's forceful 30-minute shift from the bench against Scotland, so the Test British and Irish Lion returns and he will replace lock partner Courtney Lawes in running the line-out.

Attwood has started all four matches of the tournament but misses out on the final instalment with Lancaster believing the street-wise Easter is a better option to reinforce the final push for silverware.

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Tom Youngs was strongly praised by Lancaster following his substitute display at Twickenham last Saturday, but Dylan Hartley has held off the challenge from his rival and continues at hooker.

The backline remains unchanged and now has a settled look to it with inside centre providing the only real question mark.

Luther Burrell continues at 12 knowing that had Brad Barritt not been stricken by a high ankle sprain, his place in the starting XV would have been in doubt and the Northampton midfielder needs to impress against France.

Tighthead prop Dan Cole wins his 50th cap in a front row that has been unchanged throughout the Six Nations.

"It's a great achievement for Dan to win his 50th cap, especially coming back from his injury last year. He is one of the cornerstones of our squad and we all wish him all the best," Lancaster said.

Bookmakers view England as favourites to be crowned 2015 Six Nations champions on a nerve-shredding day of staggered kick-offs that conclude at Twickenham.

Wales and Ireland are also in contention - they visit Rome and Edinburgh respectively - but it is the Red Rose who top the table courtesy of a points cushion of plus four.

For a third successive year the outcome is set to be decided by points difference and with their showdown against the typically unpredictable French closing the Championship, it is the 2015 World Cup hosts who will know exactly what target they must chase down.

"Finishing off the tournament at home is going to be a great occasion," Lancaster said.

"The support against Scotland last week was fantastic and this weekend we really need the crowd to get behind the team and drive them forward in what will be an exciting finale to this year's Championship."

England team to face France in Saturday's RBS 6 Nations match at Twickenham, London, kick-off 5pm:

M Brown (Harlequins); A Watson (Bath), J Joseph (Bath), L Burrell (Northampton), J Nowell (Exeter); G Ford (Bath), B Youngs (Leicester); J Marler (Harlequins), D Hartley (Northampton), D Cole (Leicester), G Parling (Leicester), C Lawes (Northampton), J Haskell (Wasps), C Robshaw (Harlequins, capt), B Vunipola (Saracens).

Replacements: T Youngs (Leicester), M Vunipola (Saracens), K Brookes (Newcastle), N Easter (Harlequins), T Wood (Northampton), R Wigglesworth (Saracens), D Cipriani (Sale), B Twelvetrees (Gloucester).

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