France v England preview: Team news, kick-off time, key battle, line-ups and stats for the Six Nations clash
England travel to Paris with a chance of winning their first Gran Slam since 2003 on Saturday: 20:00 kick-off
Eddie Jones has made two changes to the side that beat Wales with Ben Youngs and Joe Marler dropping out
French coach Guy Noves has also made two changes
England head to Paris eyeing Grand Slam number 13, and their first since 2003, against France on Saturday in the Six Nations.
The attitude of Eddie Jones and his players this week towards wrapping up the Championship hasn’t been arrogant. There’s a burning desire to get the job done.
England captain Dylan Hartley and the majority of this still youthful squad head to the French capital with those regrets from coming second so often in their back pocket, knowing a chance to make history awaits.
Danny Care and Mako Vunipola replace Ben Youngs and Joe Marler, who both drop down to the bench, in two changes to the starting side that beat Wales 25-21 at Twickenham last weekend.
“While we are pleased to have already won the championship, we don’t want to let our foot off the gas.” revealed head coach Eddie Jones.
“The objective has always been to win every game, to be the most dominant team in Europe, so it’s been very important for us to approach this week with the same level of intensity we have shown in previous weeks.
“I’m pleased with how we have prepared and with the focus the squad have shown.
“You can’t underestimate any team in Test match rugby. France are a dangerous side, but we go to Paris full of confidence and a hunger to get the win.”
The thrilling victory over Warren Gatland’s men, combined with Scotland’s win against France, resulted in England claiming their first Six Nations title for five years last weekend – but the big prize is on offer in Paris on Saturday.
Meanwhile, France coach Guy Noves has named forwards Bernard Le Roux and Loann Goujon in his team to face England in Paris on Saturday, making two changes to the side who were defeated by Scotland last weekend.
Noves has swapped at least five players for each match of the tournament but resisted the temptation to make wholesale changes for the final fixture, bringing in the back rowers at the expense of Yacouba Camara and Wenceslas Lauret, who drop to the bench.
“We need a new freshness,” Noves said in a statement on Thursday. “The back row positions demand mental and physical freshness and this allows certain new players such as Le Roux to come into the side and show their potential.”
Francois Trinh-Duc and Maxime Machenaud retain their places despite unconvincing showings in the 29-18 defeat at Murrayfield that handed England the Six Nations title.
England’s only victory at the Stade de France since 2008 was 24-22 in 2012.
The last five Test matches between France and England have all been won by the home side.
France have stopped an opponent from claiming a Grand Slam on four previous occasions, beating England, Wales and Ireland in Paris in 1954, 1965 and 1982 respectively, and Wales in Cardiff in 1988.
They have finished in the bottom half of the table in the last four Six Nations (4th, 6th, 4th, 4th).
They are attempting to win a Grand Slam for the 13th time and for the first time since 2003.
England are bidding to become only the third side to win a Six Nations Grand Slam after playing three of their games away from home – following Wales in 2005 and Ireland in 2009.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
France: Gael Fickou
England: Maro Itoje
PREVIOUS 10 MEETINGS
2015: France won 25-20 at Stade de France
2015: England won 19-14 at Twickenham
2015: England won 55-35 at Twickenham
2014: France won 26-24 at Stade de France
2013: England won 23-13 at Twickenham
2012: England won 24-22 at Stade de France
2011: France won 19-12 at Eden Park
2011: England won 17-9 at Twickenham
2010: France won 12-10 at Stade de France
2009: England won 24-10 at Twickenham
France: 15 Scott Spedding, 14 Wesley Fofana, 13 Gaël Fickou, 12 Maxime Mermoz, 11 Virimi Vakatawa, 10 François Trinh-Duc, 9 Maxime Machenaud, 8 Loann Goujon, 7 Bernard le Roux, 6 Damien Chouly, 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Alexandre Flanquart, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Guilhem Guirado (c), 1 Jefferson Poirot
Replacements: 16 Camille Chat, 17 Uini Atonio, 18 Xavier Chiocci, 19 Paul Jedrasiak, 20 Wenceslas Lauret, 21 Sébastien Bézy, 22 Jules Plisson, Maxime Médard
England: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Jack Nowell, 10 George Ford, 9 Danny Care, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 James Haskell, 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 George Kruis, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley, 1 Mako Vunipola
Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Joe Marler, 18 Kieran Brookes, 19 Joe Launchbury,20 Jack Clifford, 21 Ben Youngs, 22 Manu Tuilagi, 23 Elliot Daly
Date: Saturday, March 19
Venue: Stade de France, Paris
Kick-off: 21:00 local (20:00 GMT)
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: John Lacey (Ireland), Leighton Hodges (Wales)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)