Owen Farrell named England captain for France Six Nations clash as Dylan Hartley ruled out


OWEN Farrell will captain England against France in Six Nations rugby on Saturday after regular skipper Dylan Hartley’s tight calf failed to come right.

Farrell captains for the first time. Despite Chris Robshaw and George Ford being past co-captains, prop Mako Vunipola was made vice-captain. Leadership was an issue two weeks ago in the loss to Scotland at Murrayfield.

“We need to make sure we have one strong voice among the forward leaders and Mako has been doing some great work behind the scenes,” coach Eddie Jones said on Thursday.

Flyhalf Francois Trinh-Duc replaced Lionel Beauxis in France’s only change to the run-on team that beat Italy 34-17 in round three.

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Trinh-Duc is the third different flyhalf to start a game for the French in the championship, after Matthieu Jalibert against Ireland and Beauxis against Scotland and Italy. Beauxis is on the bench.

“It has been a difficult choice,” France coach Jacques Brunel said, “because Lionel Beauxis has done what we’ve asked of him.”

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Hartley was going to lead the side in Paris, Jones said, but the hooker hasn’t trained since Monday when he was injured.

Jamie George replaced Hartley at hooker in the only change to the forward pack. George, the British and Irish Lions hooker, will make only his second start in 24 caps for England.

In the backline, fullback Mike Brown was demoted to the reserves.

Anthony Watson has moved into the position, Ben Te’o has come in at outside centre in place of Jonathan Joseph, and Elliot Daly has returned from ankle and calf injuries to the left wing, with Jonny May swapping wings.

“Mike Brown has been excellent for us but he was a little bit off against Scotland,” Jones said. “We want to attack a little bit more. It’s a great back three for us.

“Elliot … is in really good fettle, moving well and he’s obviously a very good player having done so well for the Lions in the summer.

“Ben Te’o starts. It was always the plan — we felt we’d need someone a bit bigger and stronger on a slower track at the Stade de France.”

Brown and Joseph are in the reserves, which also feature forwards Kyle Sinckler, Sam Simmonds, James Haskell, and Luke Cowan-Dickie.

“We want a response from the players this week,” Jones added.

“Against France we want to be brutal and aggressive on the gainline and to play with a great tactical discipline.”

Brunel handed the enigmatic Trinh-Duc his 65th test cap to spark France’s attack.

The 31-year-old Trinh-Duc made his France debut 10 years ago in the Six Nations and was once a mainstay. He has drifted in and out in recent years.

His last start was in November in the 23-23 draw with Japan. He was initially overlooked by Brunel for his Six Nations squad. But an injury to Jalibert and the ongoing exclusion of Anthony Belleau — one of several players dropped following an alcohol-soaked night out after the 32-26 loss to Scotland — have reopened the door for Trinh-Duc.

He will line up with scrumhalf Maxime Machenaud, who will likely keep the kicking duties.

Brunel will hope Trinh-Duc’s handling skills and slick passing can help France use the ball far better in the opposition 22.

France’s three games so far have been beset by fumbles and spilt balls.

France (15-1): Hugo Bonneval, Benjamin Fall, Mathieu Bastareaud, Geoffrey Doumayrou, Remy Grosso, Francois Trinh-Duc, Maxime Machenaud; Marco Tauleigne, Yacouba Camara, Wenceslas Lauret, Sebastien Vahaamahina, Paul Gabrillagues, Rabah Slimani, Guilhem Guirado (captain), Jefferson Poirot.

Reserves: Adrien Pelissie, Dany Priso, Cedate Gomes Sa, Romain Taofifenua, Kelian Galletier, Baptiste Couilloud, Lionel Beauxis, Gael Fickou.

England (15-1): Anthony Watson, Jonny May, Ben Te’o, Owen Farrell (captain), Elliot Daly, George Ford, Danny Care; Nathan Hughes, Chris Robshaw, Courtney Lawes, Maro Itoje, Joe Launchbury, Dan Cole, Jamie George, Mako Vunipola.

Reserves: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Joe Marler, Kyle Sinckler, James Haskell, Sam Simmonds, Richard Wigglesworth, Jonathan Joseph, Mike Brown.


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