Oval Talk

England set to unleash rookie backline in Paris

Oval Talk

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England appear set to field a rookie backline with two debutants and a one-cap winger when they begin their Six Nations campaign away to France on Saturday.

A series of injuries have forced coach Stuart Lancaster's hand but he is also expected to drop established winger Chris Ashton to make way for uncapped 20-year-old flyer Jack Nowell.

Luther Burrell is in line for a first start at centre, while Jonny May should add to the solitary cap he won on last year's tour of Argentina, edging out uncapped 19-year-old Anthony Watson on the other wing.

The long injury list always meant that some new faces were likely to be involved in Paris but last week, Lancaster hinted that he would not want to throw in too many and that Ashton would probably hold on to his place.

However, it was reported on Tuesday that Ashton would be cut, with some suggesting he would not even be among the replacements.

Ashton, 26, made a stunning start to his international career having switched from rugby league, scoring 15 tries in his first 17 games following his debut against France in 2010.

However, his formed dipped last year and he was set to be replaced in the November internationals - only for injuries to Marland Yarde and Christian Wade to spare him.

Nowell has terrific pace and though he has scored only two tries in his 16 games for Exeter, Lancaster has seen enough in training to think him ready for a baptism of fire in the Stade de France.

"There is a balance to strike, but I've always been reasonably confident to pick inexperienced players if I feel they're ready," said Lancaster, who gave seven players their debuts in his first match in charge against Scotland two years ago.

"For me, it's exciting to give young players opportunities, particularly if they've been performing well and showing it consistently at their clubs."

Lancaster will name his team on Thursday.

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