England to change three for France?
February 20, 2013
Courtney Lawes could start at blindside against France © Getty Images
England boss Stuart Lancaster is set to make three changes to his starting line-up for the Six Nations clash with France on Saturday.
Reports suggest that Courtney Lawes is set to get the nod at blindside, Dylan Hartley will start at hooker while Manu Tuilagi will line up alongside Brad Barritt in the centres. With those three included - James Haskell, Tom Youngs and Billy Twelvetrees will reportedly drop to the bench.
If Hartley does get the nod then it will be his first start for England since the June Test series in South Africa. He was forced to miss out on the November internationals due to injury and has played second fiddle to Tom Youngs during the Six Nations. His Northampton team-mate Lawes is yet to start a match for England at blindside as he is usually deployed in the second-row. But with Haskell forced to miss some of training this week due to flu, Lawes looks set to be given the No.6 shirt for Saturday's showdown with France.
And Tuilagi, who formed a lethal partnership with Barritt in their memorable 38-21 win over the All Blacks in December, looks set to be given the No.13 shirt. Twelvetrees has started both of England's matches to date but Tuilagi's impressive second-half impact against Ireland looks to have done enough to persuade Stuart Lancaster to start him from the outset.
Wasps' No.8 Billy Vunipola was also in the mix - most likely for a spot on the bench - but he suffered an injury during training this week.
But while Tom Youngs looks set to miss out on a place in the XV for France, his brother Ben should keep the scrum-half shirt despite Danny Care's impressive performance for club side Harlequins against Leicester Tigers on Saturday. Ben Youngs, unusually, was asked to play the full 80 minutes of England's 12-6 win over Ireland in Dublin because of the control he was displaying in difficult Dublin conditions.
In France, game management has traditionally been the job of the scrum-half rather than the fly-half and that is something Ben Youngs has worked on. Although he still enjoys attacking on instinct, the 23-year-old believes he is developing an all-round game that is more suited to the intensity of Test rugby.
"One of the players I have studied quite a bit is Yachvili and the way he determines everything and how he plays at Biarritz," Ben Youngs said. "The French nine traditionally runs the whole show. In England it is the 10. Now, though, the way the game is moving nine and 10 both have to control each thing."
© PA Photos
But while Ben Youngs has admiration for Yachvili, he will probably come up against Morgan Parra on Saturday and the Leicester half-back is full of praise for his Clermont counterpart.
"He dictates where the play is going, the ability to box kick or kick into the corner, the ability to look up and suddenly swing left when the 10 is lining up right," Ben Youngs said. "We have to keep our wits about us. We have all played against French teams enough to know they play in a similar way.
"He has to feel the heat and we must make sure we are making his decisions very hard. I have always loved the running game and I don't think that will go. It's just about picking the right moments.
"You get more knowledge through playing or making mistakes. You get used to different scenarios to know when's good to go and when's not. It's about recognising that and having the ability to execute it. That is something Mike Catt (skills coach) has been a huge influence on."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
The Scotland coach enters his first Six Nations with at least one familiar face to look to for inspiration - Joe Schmidt. He chats to Tom Hamilton
Italy coach Jacques Brunel spoke to ESPN ahead of his final season as Italy coach and tells of his desire to experiment and evolve
"There's no bull with me, I just tell it straight." Tom Hamilton talks to Warren Gatland in an exclusive interview
With the retirement of Adam Jones, Welsh rugby says goodbye to a great player and one of its biggest personalities too, writes Tom Hamilton