6N: England starting Ashton, France recall Bastareaud
England is starting winger Chris Ashton in the Six Nations for the first time in six years, while France has recalled center Mathieu Bastareaud for their clash on Sunday at Twickenham.
Ashton displaced Jack Nowell on the right wing on Friday. Nowell was in the reserves.
"We think he might sneak us a try early in the game," coach Eddie Jones said of Ashton. "Jack Nowell was brilliant against Ireland and he'll play a significant role for us off the bench."
The only other change by England after beating Ireland 32-20 in Dublin last weekend was Courtney Lawes replacing lock Maro Itoje, who damaged right knee ligaments.
In the reserves, props Dan Cole and Ben Moon have come in, along with lock Joe Launchbury, who has overcome knee and neck injuries which ruled him out of the November series. Cole, the British Lion, could make his first appearance for England in a year after addressing weaknesses under instruction from Jones.
Bastareaud was one of six changes made by France after losing to Wales 24-19 in Paris.
"It seems timely to bring him back in and start him, because he looks like an important option for us against England," coach Jacques Brunel said. "We know the impact Mathieu can have and faced with the English strength in midfield, notably Manu Tuilagi, he could have a good impact."
Bastareaud is paired in midfield with Geoffrey Doumayrou, who was on the bench against Wales. Wesley Fofana was left out completely, as Bastareaud was last week.
Center Romain Ntamack, who made his debut against Wales, was relegated to the bench.
In a positional switch, Yoann Huget has gone from left wing to fullback, with Gael Fickou coming into the side on the left wing. Huget retains his place in a revamped backline, despite gifting winger George North a try with a sloppy mistake against Wales at Stade de France.
"Yoann's played a lot at fullback before, he alternates between the two positions," Brunel said. "I'm not worried about Sunday because he knows how to play there."
Brunel kept faith with the halfback pairing of flyhalf Camille Lopez and scrumhalf Morgan Parra, even though both missed straightforward penalty kicks against Wales.
The three other changes were in the forwards, where Yacouba Camara replaced Wenceslas Lauret at flanker; Felix Lambey was at lock in place of Paul Willemse, and Demba Bamba at prop instead of Uini Atonio.
It is a brave move selecting Bamba at prop for such a big game ahead of Atonio, who has 32 test caps, especially considering Bamba's only two international appearances were from the bench and he will be up against Mako Vunipola.
"He has a little bit of experience, even though he hasn't played much for us. He's come up against a few good players," Brunel said. "We have a bit of a problem (at prop) because there are a lot of foreign players in our league."
Brunel, who has lost nine of 12 matches since taking charge a little more than one year ago, also shook up the reserves with new faces on the bench.
England: Elliot Daly, Chris Ashton, Henry Slade, Manu Tuilagi, Jonny May, Owen Farrell (captain), Ben Youngs; Billy Vunipola, Tom Curry, Mark Wilson, George Kruis, Courtney Lawes, Kyle Sinckler, Jamie George, Mako Vunipola. Reserves: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Ben Moon, Dan Cole, Joe Launchbury, Nathan Hughes, Dan Robson, George Ford, Jack Nowell.
France: Yoann Huget, Damian Penaud, Mathieu Bastareaud, Geoffrey Doumayrou, Gael Fickou, Camille Lopez, Morgan Parra; Louis Picamoles, Arthur Iturria, Yacouba Camara, Felix Lambey, Sebastien Vahaamahina, Demba Bamba, Guilhem Guirado (captain), Jefferson Poirot. Reserves: Pierre Bourgarit, Dany Priso, Dorian Aldegheri, Paul Willemse, Gregory Alldritt, Antoine Dupont, Romain Ntamack, Thomas Ramos.