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England spring Furbank, Sinckler surprises as five changes made

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

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Eddie Jones has made five changes to his England team to take on France this Saturday night in Paris following last weekend’s 15-32 Guinness Six Nations round four loss to Ireland at Twickenham. The English coach had been set to make three changes following injury to the hamstrung Tom Curry, the suspension of the red-carded Charlie Ewels and the dropping of starting winger Max Malins.

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Sam Underhill, Nick Isiekwe and George Furbank are the three players called up to fill those vacancies, Furbank surprisingly slotting in at full-back for the first time since October 2020 with Freddie Steward – the starting No15 in the past nine matches – switching to the right wing for the first time to take over Malins’ role. It’s a tactic designed to combat France’s kicking game, pitting the 6ft 5in Steward directly against the 5ft 11in Gabin Villiere.

Jones has also opted for two further changes to his XV, recalling Ben Youngs for Harry Randall at scrum-half in the hope of using Randall’s pace later in the match and starting Will Stuart at tighthead in place of Kyle Sinckler, who has been short on training time due to a back injury last week and a concussion at the weekend.

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It will be just the fourth start of Stuart’s England career but Sinckler failed his HIA during the game with Ireland and Jones felt it best to keep him in reserve on this occasion rather than start him or omit him altogether from the matchday squad.

This decision to pick Sinckler on the bench will attract attention. If he is fit for Saturday, then why isn’t he starting rather than Stuart, who has only started on three previous occasions in his 19-cap career? The alternative perspective is if Sinckler isn’t right at the moment, then why has he been chosen as a replacement when backup prop Joe Heyes is fully fit and available for a sub role?

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Nic Dolly and Ollie Chessum, meanwhile, could get the chance to add to their first England caps after being named on the replacements bench. England travelled over to Paris on Tuesday after Jones cut his original squad of 34 to 28. Malins, hooker Jamie Blamire (who was a sub versus Ireland), back-rower Jack Willis, scrum-half Alex Mitchell, out-half Orlando Bailey and winger Ollie Hassell-Collins were the six players omitted at that juncture.

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The five players now with the squad in Paris who have not made the matchday 23 are back-rower Alfie Barbeary, tighthead Heyes, lock Joe Launchbury, and Harlequins backs Louis Lynagh and Luke Northmore. This non-selection of the uncapped Lynagh means that he still hasn’t been captured by England and is theoretically still eligible for Australia or Italy if he so desires.

Jones said: “This is our strongest 23 for the game against France. We are disappointed not to be in contention for the trophy but last week’s effort against Ireland was full of pride, energy and tactical discipline. We have focused on refreshing the team this week and we are ready to empty the tank on Saturday.”

ENGLAND (vs France, Saturday)
15. George Furbank (Northampton Saints, 5 caps)
14. Freddie Steward (Leicester Tigers, 9 caps)
13. Joe Marchant (Harlequins, 11 caps)
12. Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs, 47 caps)
11. Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs, 38 caps)
10. Marcus Smith (Harlequins, 9 caps)
9. Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 116 caps)
1. Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers, 35 caps)
2. Jamie George (Saracens, 65 caps)
3. Will Stuart (Bath Rugby, 19 caps)
4. Maro Itoje (Saracens, 55 caps)
5. Nick Isiekwe (Saracens, 6 caps)
6. Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, 92 caps)
7. Sam Underhill (Bath Rugby, 27 caps)
8. Sam Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs, 13 caps)

Replacements:
16. Nic Dolly (Leicester Tigers, 1 cap)
17. Joe Marler (Harlequins, 78 caps)
18. Kyle Sinckler (Bristol Bears, 51 caps)
19. Ollie Chessum (Leicester Tigers, 1 cap)
20. Alex Dombrandt (Harlequins, 8 caps)
21. Harry Randall (Bristol Bears, 5 caps)
22. George Ford (Leicester Tigers, 80 caps)
23. Elliot Daly (Saracens, 56 caps)

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