Joe Marler, Elliot Daly and Maro Itoje start for England against France in Six Nations opener
By Andrew Dickson
Last Updated: 02/02/17 1:02pm
Joe Marler, Elliot Daly and Maro Itoje will start for England in their Six Nations opener against France on Saturday.
Dylan Hartley is included in the side as captain for his first outing since completing his six-week ban for a stiff-arm tackle on Leinster's Sean O'Brien while playing for Northampton in the Champions Cup.
Itoje comes in as one of five changes to the starting XV which defeated Australia 37-21 in December to complete an unbeaten 2016.
Daly starts on the left wing, preferred to Jack Nowell, with Jonny May on the right, while loosehead prop Matt Mullan, flanker James Haskell and Nowell are all listed among the replacements.
Harlequins loosehead prop Marler was expected to be out for five weeks after he suffered a leg fracture in the warm-up before his club side's meeting with Sale on January 7.
In turn, that would have meant he would miss the match with the French and also the trip to play Wales in Cardiff on February 11.
Having resumed full training during last week's camp in Portugal, however, the 26-year-old is in the home team to play at Twickenham on Saturday.
Marler's inclusion is a boost for England head coach Eddie Jones, who looks set to be without his first-choice loosehead Mako Vunipola for the entire campaign due to a knee problem.
Along with Itoje starting at blindside flanker, Joe Launchbury resumes the second-row partnership he had with Courtney Lawes against South Africa and Fiji in the Autumn Internationals.
Jones said: "We've been able to select a very strong and experienced team to play against France and we are excited to get the tournament underway.
"There's a great rivalry between the countries so we're looking forward to a great occasion playing against one of England's oldest foes.
"In rugby terms, you've traditionally got two contrasting styles - French flair and England's dogged conservative approach.
"But we want to be absolutely daring against the French in this first game and set the standard for the tournament.
"Guy Noves likes a big team. He picks a traditional French forward pack with squat front-rowers who scrummage well, big locks who give a lot of ballast and athletic back-rowers.
"It's based on size and crunching that gain line, getting an off-load and then playing with flair.
"Of course, this gives you an opportunity when you've got a big forward pack against you and we intend to exploit that.
"We want to get better all of the time, we are ambitious and we want to be the number one team in the world.
"It's exciting to be back at Twickenham. We've got great supporters and we're looking forward to hearing them turn the volume up on Saturday."
England: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Jonny May, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Elliot Daly, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs; 1 Joe Marler, 2. Dylan Hartley (c), 3 Dan Cole, 4 Joe Launchbury, 5 Courtney Lawes, 6 Maro Itoje, 7 Tom Wood, 8 Nathan Hughes.
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Matt Mullan, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Teimana Harrison, 20 James Haskell, 21 Danny Care, 22 Ben Te'o, 23 Jack Nowell.