London: After six appearances on the bench, fullback Max Malins will make his first England start against France in the Six Nations on Saturday as coach Eddie Jones again has resisted any temptation to make widespread changes. The tournament resumes this weekend after a two-week break, with Wales and France seeking to maintain their push for a Grand Slam.
Malins, on loan at Bristol from Saracens, swaps places with Elliot Daly in the team named on Thursday.
It is the same situation in the pack where Luke Cowan-Dickie returns as hooker and Charlie Ewels as lock, with Jamie George and Jonny Hill moving to the replacements.
Winger Anthony Watson will win his 50th cap in the clash at Twickenham, where England have won their last seven games against the French.
Jones has reverted to a 5/3 forwards/backs split in his replacements, with centre Ollie Lawrence returning to the squad in place of uncapped flanker George Martin.
Martin did not get off the bench in the defeat by Wales two weeks ago that ended England’s hopes of retaining the title.
On the call-up for 24-year-old Malins, Jones said: “Hes really impressed us since hes been in the squad.
“He’s got a good kick return game, a good feeling for the game, brings pace on to the ball and, particularly playing against a team like France, who are the highest kicking and longest kicking in the world, the fullback is pretty busy and so he will have a big role for us.”
Jones also had good things to say about 27-year-old Watson, who has three tries in the championship to date. “Ive never seen a player work so hard,” he said of the winger.
“He had a difficult injury period, went to the World Cup and did exceedingly well. He then went through another injury period but hes come back, hes close to his best and I think his 50th game will be his best game.”
Despite the defeat by Wales, England had some promising moments in attack. Jones, however, said on Thursday that it was still “defence that wins test matches.”
In that regard his players will have to be on particular guard against perpetually dangerous scrumhalf Antoine Dupont, who has been at the heart of the recent French revival.
“Our defence around the ruck has got to be good, it has got to be tight,” Jones said.
“We’d like him (Dupont) to have a tidy game, do all the simple things well but not any of the special things. If we can keep him in a little box, then it will be a good result for us.”
Six Nations Rugby: where does it stand
Italy vs Wales (Saturday)
Tournament leaders Wales will be just one win away from the Grand Slam if they beat perennial strugglers Italy at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. The Azzurri by contrast, are on a run of 30 successive Six Nations defeats, a sequence stretching back to 2015.
England vs France, Twickenham (Saturday)
France are restarting their title bid against England in “Le Crunch” after a coronavirus outbreak in their camp forced the postponement of their third-round match against Scotland.
Champions England are now all but out of title contention and a loss on Saturday would be their third loss in four games following defeats by Scotland and Wales.
Scotland vs Ireland (Sunday)
Scotland still have title ambitions after their first win over England at Twickenham since 1983 was followed by an agonising loss at home to Wales. But a third defeat for Ireland in the 2021 tournament would condemn them to a lowly finish and add to the mounting scrutiny on coach Andy Farrell.