Fullback Malins gets first England start against France

Mitch Phillips
·3-min read

By Mitch Phillips

LONDON (Reuters) - After six appearances on the bench fullback Max Malins will make his first England start against France in the Six Nations on Saturday as coach Eddie Jones again has resisted any temptation to make widespread changes.

Malins, on loan at Bristol from Saracens, swaps places with Elliot Daly in the team named on Thursday.

It is the same situation in the pack where Luke Cowan-Dickie returns as hooker and Charlie Ewels as lock, with Jamie George and Jonny Hill moving to the replacements.

Winger Anthony Watson will win his 50th cap in the clash at Twickenham, where England have won their last seven games against the French.

Jones has reverted to a 5/3 forwards/backs split in his replacements, with centre Ollie Lawrence returning to the squad in place of uncapped flanker George Martin.

Martin did not get off the bench in the defeat by Wales two weeks ago that ended England's hopes of retaining the title.

On the call-up for 24-year-old Malins, Jones said: "He’s really impressed us since he’s been in the squad.

"He's got a good kick return game, a good feeling for the game, brings pace on to the ball and, particularly playing against a team like France, who are the highest kicking and longest kicking in the world, the fullback is pretty busy and so he will have a big role for us."

Jones also had good things to say about 27-year-old Watson, who has three tries in the championship to date. "I’ve never seen a player work so hard," he said of the winger.

"He had a difficult injury period, went to the World Cup and did exceedingly well. He then went through another injury period but he’s come back, he’s close to his best and I think his 50th game will be his best game."

Despite the defeat by Wales, England had some promising moments in attack. Jones, however, said on Thursday that it was still "defence that wins test matches."

In that regard his players will have to be on particular guard against perpetually dangerous scrumhalf Antoine Dupont, who has been at the heart of the recent French revival.

"Our defence around the ruck has got to be good, it has got to be tight," Jones said.

"We'd like him (Dupont) to have a tidy game, do all the simple things well but not any of the special things. If we can keep him in a little box, then it will be a good result for us."

England team to play France on Saturday

15. Max Malins (Bristol Bears, 6 caps)14. Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby, 49 caps)13. Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs, 37 caps)12. Owen Farrell (Saracens, 91 caps) (C)11. Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby, 64 caps)10. George Ford (Leicester Tigers, 75 caps)9. Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 107 caps)1. Mako Vunipola (Saracens, 65 caps)2. Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, 29 caps)3. Kyle Sinckler (Bristol Bears, 42 caps)4. Maro Itoje (Saracens, 46 caps)5. Charlie Ewels (Bath Rugby, 19 caps)6. Mark Wilson (Newcastle Falcons, 21 caps)7. Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, 31 caps)8. Billy Vunipola (Saracens, 59 caps) Replacements16. Jamie George (Saracens, 57 caps)17. Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers, 26 caps)18. Will Stuart (Bath Rugby, 10 caps)19. Jonny Hill (Exeter Chiefs, 7 caps)20. Ben Earl (Bristol Bears, 11 caps)21. Dan Robson (Wasps, 10 caps)22. Ollie Lawrence (Worcester Warriors, 4 caps)23. Elliot Daly (Saracens, 50 caps)

(Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Ken Ferris)