England opt for same again
March 9, 2012
Owen Farrell will once again pull the strings for England against France on Sunday © Getty Images
England have named an unchanged side for their Six Nations clash with France in Paris on Sunday.
As a result, Owen Farrell retains the No.10 shirt despite the return to fitness of Charlie Hodgson who must settle for a place on the bench. Farrell's impressive international debut at fly-half in England's 19-12 defeat to Wales drew comparison with Jonny Wilkinson and he keeps the role in an unchanged starting line-up for the Paris showdown.
Hodgson, who started at fly-half with Farrell at inside centre in England's wins against Scotland and Italy, returns from a finger injury to replace Toby Flood on the bench. Stade Francais lock Tom Palmer also returns to the 22-man squad with a seat on the bench after Courtney Lawes was ruled out of the tournament with a shin injury.
Lancaster said: "We were really disappointed to lose to Wales but we took a lot out of the performance and felt it was right to pick the same starting team to go to Paris. It will be a massive challenge going to the Stade de France and playing against an experienced and unbeaten French side but we are excited about the opportunity and want to do the country proud."
Hodgson is Saracens' first-choice fly-half and Farrell lines up in the centres at club level, which was how England started their Six Nations campaign. But Farrell's mature performance at Twickenham two weekends ago has pushed him ahead of Hodgson as England's first choice playmaker.
England's starting line-up features only five of the side that started the 19-12 World Cup quarter-final defeat to France in October - Ben Foden, Chris Ashton, Manu Tuilagi, Dan Cole and Tom Croft. France, who went on to reach the World Cup final, have not lost at home in 10 Six Nations games following their 17-17 draw with Ireland last weekend.
Hodgson's finger injury forced Lancaster to reshuffle his backs for the Wales game, with Farrell's switch to fly-half opening the way for Manu Tuilagi's return alongside Brad Barritt. All three impressed Lancaster at Twickenham and he saw no reason to change the combination, despite Hodgson's return to fitness.
Lancaster said on RFU.com: "It was a forced change going into he Wales game but it was an opportunity to have a look at Owen, Brad and Manu together and I felt they delivered. Lee (Dickson) deserved to keep his spot (at scrum-half) for the tempo and what he brings. Owen, Brad and Manu played well and there was no reason to change it."
B Foden (Northampton Saints); C Ashton (Northampton Saints), M Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers), B Barritt (Saracens), D Strettle (Saracens); O Farrell (Saracens), L Dickson (Northampton Saints); A Corbisiero (London Irish), D Hartley (Northampton Saints), D Cole (Leicester Tigers), M Botha (Saracens), G Parling (Leicester Tigers), T Croft (Leicester Tigers), C Robshaw (Harlequins, capt), B Morgan (Scarlets).
Replacements: R Webber (London Wasps), M Stevens (Saracens), T Palmer (Stade Francais), P Dowson (Northampton Saints), B Youngs (Leicester Tigers), C Hodgson (Saracens), M Brown (Harlequins).
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