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Lancaster sticks with tried and true for France clash

Date

Julien Guyer

England's head coach Stuart Lancaster with James Haskell after defeating Ireland in Dublin.

England's head coach Stuart Lancaster with James Haskell after defeating Ireland in Dublin. Photo: Reuters

England head coach Stuart Lancaster named Tuesday an unchanged 23-man squad for the Six Nations clash against France at Twickenham on Saturday.

Lancaster will select his starting side and eight replacements from the same matchday 23 chosen for the 12-6 victory over Ireland in Dublin on February 10 -- a result that left England top of the table and the only side capable of winning a Grand Slam Six Nations.

Wasps No.8 Billy Vunipola had been pressing hard to force his way into the matchday line-up but his prospects suffered a setback when he injured his ankle in training on Tuesday.

As a result, Lancaster has opted for the same 23 he fielded at Lansdowne Road although that would not prevent him making changes to a starting line-up due to be announced on Thursday, when France are also set to name their side.

"We had to make some close calls but the team did very well in Ireland so we've gone with the same squad against France," Lancaster said Tuesday.

"We are looking forward to getting back to Twickenham against what I am sure will be a highly motivated French team."

Lancaster must decide whether to stick with the centre pairing of Billy Twelvetrees and Brad Barritt or find a place for Manu Tuilagi, currently being used as an 'impact' substitute, in the starting side.

Elsewhere in the backs, replacement scrum-half Danny Care bolstered his bid for a starting spot with an impressive display in English champions Harlequins' Premiership win over Leicester on Saturday.

However, Care was denied the chance to compete against incumbent England No 9 Ben Youngs that match as the Leicester scrum-half was not granted a release from the Test squad by Lancaster.

Up front, Mako Vunipola, Billy's brother, has also been rivalling Joe Marler for the loosehead prop berth after some impressive work coming off the bench.

"I am delighted with his progress," said England forwards coach Graham Rowntree of Mako Vunipola.

"I remember myself as a prop coming on and trying to get up to the pace of the game, trying to make an impact on the game and he does it better than I ever did," the former England international added.

Meanwhile Dylan Hartley has been challenging Tom Youngs, brother of Ben, for the hooker's No 2 shirt.

France coach Philippe Saint-Andre has already labelled Saturday's match a "Grand Slam" for his struggling side with the pre-tournament favourites in the shock position of being bottom of the table after defeats in the opening two rounds by Italy and Wales.

No France side has lost its first two Six Nations matches, with the last time 'Les Bleus' suffered back-to-back reverses at the start of the Championship coming in 1982 during the Five Nations era.

England 23-man squad to play France.

Backs (10): Chris Ashton (Saracens), Brad Barritt (Saracens), Mike Brown (Harlequins), Danny Care (Harlequins), Owen Farrell (Saracens), Toby Flood (Leicester), Alex Goode (Saracens), Manu Tuilagi (Leicester), Billy Twelvetrees (Gloucester), Ben Youngs (Leicester).

Forwards (13): Dan Cole (Leicester), Dylan Hartley (Northampton), James Haskell (Wasps), Joe Launchbury (Wasps), Courtney Lawes (Northampton), Joe Marler (Harlequins), Geoff Parling (Leicester), Chris Robshaw (Harlequins, capt), Mako Vunipola (Saracens), David Wilson (Bath), Thomas Waldrom (Leicester), Tom Wood (Northampton), Tom Youngs (Leicester)

AFP

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