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George Furbank set for England debut in Six Countries opener in opposition to France Anthony Watson harm blow

Northampton sensation George Furbank will step up for Six Nations opener against France after Anthony Watson injury blow

  • Anthony Watson has been ruled out of England’s Six Nations opener in France 
  • The wing has failed to recover fully from a calf injury in time for the game 
  • Northampton sensation George Furbank is set to start on debut in his place

Northampton’s new full-back sensation George Furbank is destined to start on debut for England against France on Sunday after Anthony Watson was ruled out of the Six Nations opener with a calf injury.

Bath flier Watson was expected to take his place in a familiar back-three with Elliot Daly and Jonny May after repeated assurances Joe Launchbury was the only player unavailable.

It was claimed on Thursday night that Watson came into camp with the injury which will keep him out of the game at the Stade de France. Yet later the guidance was that he had been pencilled into the side before an 11th-hour removal. Eddie Jones is due to name his line-up at 10.30am and Furbank is poised to claim the No 15 shirt, with Daly switching to the wing. 

England wing Anthony Watson will miss the Six Nations clash against France due to injury

England wing Anthony Watson will miss the Six Nations clash against France due to injury

Watson, pictured left during an England gym session, has failed to overcome a calf problem

Watson, pictured left during an England gym session, has failed to overcome a calf problem

There may be another enforced change to the starting XV from the World Cup final as Mako Vunipola took a bang in training and there is a possibility Joe Marler will take his place at loosehead prop.

Exeter hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie has rejoined the squad sooner than expected after returning home for family reasons.

As a result, the in-form Chief will act as Jamie George’s understudy once again, meaning Bath’s Tom Dunn has been denied the debut that appeared to be in the offing and has been released to his club.

Bath tighthead Will Stuart is set to make his first appearance for England off the bench, having been preferred to the more established Harry Williams.

There may also be a debut for Gloucester wing Ollie Thorley, who is a strong contender for a place in the 23. 

South Africa made a virtue of selecting six forwards among their eight replacements during the World Cup, and with Matt Proudfoot lured by Jones from the Springboks to coach the England pack, that may be an option for the visitors on Sunday.

Northampton's new sensation George Furbank is destined to start on debut against France

Northampton’s new sensation George Furbank is destined to start on debut against France

Joe Marler could take Mako Vunipola's place in the England side after he took a bang in training

Joe Marler could take Mako Vunipola’s place in the England side after he took a bang in training

However, all the indications are that Courtney Lawes will be lining up at blindside flanker, leaving Charlie Ewels as the sole lock on the bench.

If Lawes does find himself in the back row again to reinforce England’s lineout potency by providing an extra pedigree jumper, he is relaxed about the role switch.

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‘I am easy either way,’ he said. ‘I’ve been switching in and out between five and six for Saints, which makes it easier when I come here. I am feeling more comfortable playing either role.

‘There is not a huge difference. There is probably a bigger difference for Saints, because it changes the system. Here, that is not the case — it is pretty much the same role at six or second row. Lineout would be the same, around the pitch would be the same. I honestly don’t mind where I play. I’d like to be involved first and foremost, and then starting.’

France also have a newcomer at full-back, Anthony Bouthier, and another debutant in the front row, prop Mohamed Haouas, as Fabien Galthie makes six starting changes to the side who lost their World Cup quarter-final to Wales.

PROBABLE LINE-UPS 

ENGLAND: G Furbank (Northampton); J May (Leicester), M Tuilagi (Leicester), O Farrell (Saracens, capt), E Daly (Wasps); G Ford (Leicester), B Youngs (Leicester); J Marler (Harlequins), J George (Saracens), K Sinckler (Harlequins); M Itoje (Saracens), G Kruis (Saracens); C Lawes (Northampton), T Curry (Sale), S Underhill (Bath).

FRANCE: Bouthier; Thomas, Vakatawa, Fickou, Penaud; Ntamack, Dupont; Baille, Marchand, Haouas; Le Roux, Willemse; Cros, Alldritt, Ollivon.

 


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