Six Nations: Injury to Hartley offers Farrell chance to lead from front for England in Paris

OWEN FARRELL will lead England into Saturday's clash with France after Dylan Hartley was ruled out of the NatWest 6 Nations showdown in Paris by a tight calf.

England's Owen Farrell. Picture: Ian Rutherford/
England's Owen Farrell. Picture: Ian Rutherford/

Farrell, the team’s inside centre and goalkicker, starts as captain for the first time after Hartley conceded defeat in his battle with the injury sustained in training at the start of the week.

Hartley has been an ever-present under Eddie Jones, starting all but one of his 26 Tests in charge and always acting as skipper, and his absence at the Stade de France is part of the most radical team selection of the Australian’s reign.

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Jamie George, the British and Irish Lions’ starting hooker against New Zealand last summer, is given the number two jersey while Mako Vunipola has been named vice-captain.

England's Dylan Hartley. Picture: Gareth Fuller/PA

“Owen will be very proud to be captain but at the same time he’s disappointed for Dylan to miss out through injury. He knows the position of captain carries a lot of responsibility,” Jones said.

“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. He will step up and take that on officially against France.”

In total there are five changes - two of them positional - to the side defeated 25-13 by Scotland at Murrayfield on February 24.

Mike Brown has been dropped at full-back following his disappointing display in the Calcutta Cup, resulting in Anthony Watson moving from the wing and Elliot Daly being immediately reinstated after his recovery from ankle and calf injuries.

England's Dylan Hartley. Picture: Gareth Fuller/PA

A further development of significance sees the power of Ben Te’o preferred to the quick feet of Jonathan Joseph at outside centre.

“Mike Brown has been excellent for us but he was a little bit off against Scotland and we’ve decided to start Anthony Watson there,” Jones said.

“We want to attack a little bit more so Anthony starts at full back with Elliot Daly on the left wing and Jonny May on the right wing. It’s a great back three for us.

“Elliot has come back into camp and 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.

“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 and this is why Ben Te’o starts.”

Brown and Joseph are included on a heavily-changed bench that sees Luke Cowan-Dickie present as a reserve hooker.

Kyle Sinckler is back as tighthead prop cover - Harry Williams has been struggling with a neck problem - and is joined among the replacements by James Haskell and Sam Simmonds.

“This game is about the opportunity for the team to move forward and we want a response from the players this week,” Jones said.

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

France: H Bonneval; B Fall, M Bastareaud, G Doumayrou, R Grosso; F Trinh-Duc, M Machenaud; J Poirot, G Guirado (capt), R Slimani, P Gabrillagues, S Vahaamhina, W Lauret, Y Camara, M Tauleigne. Replacements: A Pelissie, D Priso, C Gomes, R Taofifenua, K Galletier, B Couilloud, L Beauxis, G Fickou.

England: AWatson (Bath 31 caps), J May (Leicester Tigers 32), B Te’o (Worcester Warriors 11), O Farrell (Saracens 56) C, E Daly (Wasps 1), G Ford (Leicester Tigers 4), D Care (Harlequins 79); M Vunipola (Saracens 47) VC, J George (Saracens 23), D Cole (Leicester Tigers 80), J Launchbury (Wasps 50), M Itoje (Saracens 17), C Lawes (Northampton Saints 64), C Robshaw (Harlequins 62), N Hughes (Wasps 13). Replacements: L Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs 4), J Marler (Harlequins 54), K Sinckler (Harlequins 8), J Haskell (Wasps 75), S Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs 5), R Wigglesworth (Saracens 29), J Joseph (Bath 38), M Brown (Harlequins 67).