There’s two rounds left to go in the 2023 Six Nations and England and France, in 3rd and 4th respectively, will both try and chase down table-toppers Ireland as they meet in “Le Crunch” at Twickenham on Saturday.
England will hope to repeat their 23-20 win from 2021, whereas France are on the hunt for their first win over the Red Rose at HQ since 2007.
But first, head coach Steve Borthwick must decide who will be in his starting XV and who is dropped:
When will England announce their team?
Steve Borthwick is due to announce his England team to face France at 1.30pm on Thursday 9 March 2023.
Fabien Galthie is due to announce his France line-up at 11am Thursday, with the likes of Jonathan Danty and Peato Mauvaka potentially returning to the team.
On Tuesday, Borthwick announced he had retained a 27-man squad for the clash, which included the reintroduction of Marcus Smith after he was released back to Harlequins for their 40-5 win over Exeter Chiefs. Manu Tuilagi and London Irish starlet Henry Arundell are just a few other names that stick out.
England’s full 27-man squad
O Chessum, D Cole, B Curry, A Dombrandt, B Earl, E Genge, J George, N Isiekwe, M Itoje, L Ludlam, D Ribbans, K Sinckler, M Vunipola, J Walker, J Willis
H Arundell, O Farrell, O Lawrence, M Malins, J Marchant, A Mitchell, H Slade, M Smith, F Steward, M Tuilagi, J van Poortvliet, A Watson
Borthwick’s big fly-half decision
Early reports suggest that the performance against Chiefs has made Smith the primary contender for the 10 jersey this weekend, probably lining up against France’s Romain Ntamack.
Smith’s inclusion comes at the cost of George Ford, who entered the camp having recently recovered from a long-term Achilles injury, but has been released to play for Sale Sharks against London Irish this Sunday.
“We have no doubt that if he was to stay, he’d be great for us,” Kevin Sinfield, the England defence coach, said of Ford. “But we think at this moment in time the best thing for him is to get minutes at Sale.”
Farrell, who started at 10 against Italy and Wales, and has played inside centre to both Ford and Smith, would surely drop to the bench if Smith starts due to the impetus Ollie Lawrence has given England recently.
Farrell’s kicking ills could also factor into the decision, with a kicking success rate of merely 47 per cent in the first three rounds. Smith landed five conversions from six against Exeter last weekend.
Lawes yet another injury setback
Courtney Lawes has also dropped out of the squad with a shoulder injury, having appeared off the bench in England’s 20-10 win against Wales at Principality Stadium – his first test appearance in five months. David Ribbans and Nick Isiekwe remain and will act as capable replacements in Lawes’ abscence. He joins Tom Curry as another of England’s vital players missing the majority of this year’s championship due to injury.
The Saints forward was expected to carry the captaincy should Farrell drop to the bench for Smith. Instead, Ellis Genge and Maro Itoje are two names who could very well take on the task of captaincy this weekend.
Manu Tuilagi has returned to the squad list, perhaps surprisingly, as the Sale centre has yet to feature for England this tournament, and a recent red carding against Northampton further threatened his place in Borthwick’s plans. That aforementioned suspension means he cannot face the French, but has instead has imitated members of Les Bleus in England training.
England’s predicted team to face France
- 1. Ellis Genge
- 2. Jamie George
- 3. Kyle Sinckler
- 4. Maro Itoje
- 5. Ollie Chessum
- 6. Lewis Ludlam
- 7. Jack Willis
- 8. Alex Dombrandt
- 9. Jack van Poortvliet
- 10. Marcus Smith
- 11. Anthony Watson
- 12. Ollie Lawrence
- 13. Henry Slade
- 14. Max Malins
- 15. Freddie Steward