England have named Joe Marler on the bench for Saturday’s Grand Slam match against France in Paris after making two changes to their starting line-up.
Mako Vunipola is preferred to Marler at loosehead prop and Danny Care replaces Ben Youngs at scrum-half in the only adjustments as the newly-crowned RBS 6 Nations champions seek to complete a first clean sweep since 2003.
Marler was cleared to play at the Stade de France late on Wednesday evening after escaping sanction from the rugby judiciary for striking one Wales prop – Rob Evans – and verbally abusing a second by calling Samson Lee “gypsy boy”.
Despite the 25-year-old’s unexpected availability – he pleaded guilty to both offences that occurred in the first half of last weekend’s 25-21 victory at Twickenham – he must settle for a spot among the replacements.
“We’ve picked our best 23 who we know can get the job done in Paris,” head coach Eddie Jones said.
“Everyone wants to be on the field this Saturday so selection was nip and tuck. Danny Care starts at scrum-half with Ben Youngs finishing the game. Mako Vunipola comes in at loosehead for Joe Marler who will make an impact off the bench.”
The Six Nations disciplinary committee finally announced on Wednesday night that no action would be taken and Jones was crystal clear on Thursday when asked if Marler had been dropped because of the incident.
“Not at all, it suits the way we want to play at the weekend,” the Australian told reporters.
“I repeat what I said on Monday. I spoke to Joe and said it was inappropriate,” said Jones before declining to become involved in a debate over whether the ‘Gypsy Boy’ phrase should be considered racist.
“If you look at the statements put out by Wales yesterday maybe they don’t know if they are Arthur or Martha. One time yesterday they didn’t (think it was racist) and now they do.
“We just let it run its process, we’re not interested in saying what’s right or wrong, that’s why we have these committees,” said Jones. “A grand slam is much more interesting than something that happened seven days ago and has been well and truly discussed.”
FRANCE MAKE TWO CHANGES
France coach Guy Noves has named forwards Bernard Le Roux and Loann Goujon in his team, making two changes to the side who were defeated byScotland 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.
WHEN DOES THE FRANCE V ENGLAND SIX NATIONS DECIDER KICK OFF?
The match begins at 8pm GMT on Saturday 19th March, 2016. It’s being played at the Stade de France in Paris.
France: 1-Jefferson Poirot, 2-Guilhem Guirado (captain), 3-Rabah Slimani, 4-Alexandre Flanquart, 5-Yoann Maestri, 6-Damien Chouly, 7-Bernard Le Roux, 8-Loann Goujon, 9-Maxime Machenaud, 10-Francois Trinh-Duc, 11-Virimi Vakatawa, 12-Maxime Mermo, 13-Gael Fickou, 14-Wesley Fofana, 15-Scott Spedding. Substitutes: 16-Camille Chat, 17-Uini Atonio, 18-Xavier Chiocci, 19-Paul Jedrasiak, 20-Wenceslas Lauret, 21-Sebastien Bezy, 22-Jules Plisson, 23-Maxime Medard.
England: 1-Mako Vunipola, 2-Dylan Hartley, 3-Dan Cole, 4-Maro Itoje, 5-George Kruis, 6-Chris Robshaw, 7-James Haskell, 8-Billy Vunipola, 9-Danny Care, 10-George Ford, 11-Jack Nowell, 12-Owen Farrell, 13-Jonathan Joseph, 14-Anthony Watson, 15-Mike Brown. Substitutes: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Joe Marler, Kieran Brookes, Joe Launchbury, Jack Clifford, Ben Youngs, Manu Tuilagi, Elliot Daly.