Defending champions England get their latest Six Nations campaign underway against France at Twickenham this weekend.

Where to watch

England vs France kicks off at 16.50 GMT on Saturday 4 February. In the United Kingdom, live coverage is available on ITV and BBC Radio Five Live. BBC Two will be broadcasting extended highlights at 18.00 on Sunday evening.


What a sensational year 2016 was for England. Heading cautiously into a new era after the humiliation of becoming the first host nation in World Cup history to be eliminated at the pool phase, they began life under Eddie Jones by ending a 13-year run without a Six Nations Grand Slam. Later completing a historic whitewash on Australian soil, they also sealed an autumn clean sweep to match their all-time record of 14 consecutive Test victories.

With New Zealand's mark of 18 successive wins now firmly within their sights, England will be desperate to avoid complacency as they continue their quest to surpass the All Blacks as the world's number-one ranked team. The looming Lions tour of New Zealand provides a sizeable distraction and injury woe has deprived them of Chris Robshaw and Manu Tuilagi as well as, in the short term at least, both Vunipola brothers, George Kruis and Anthony Watson.

Maro Itoje and Joe Marler
Maro Itoje starts at six, while Joe Marler deputises for Mako Vunipola after recovering from a leg fracture

Milk-guzzling loosehead Joe Marler has been declared fit to start after remarkably recovering from a lower leg fracture in just three weeks and Kruis' knee injury does not prevent Jones from sticking to his plan of switching Maro Itoje from lock to blindside flanker in order to compensate for the loss of Robshaw. Joe Launchbury is recalled to the second row alongside Courtney Lawes, while Elliot Daly, sent off against Argentina on his last international appearance, is preferred to Jack Nowell on the left wing.

It was a 31-21 win in Paris last March that sealed that Grand Slam for England and condemned France to a fifth successive bottom-half finish. Les Blues, no doubt eager to shake that unpredictable tag, questions surrounding their mental fortitude and talk of missing flair, split their series against Argentina last summer before thrashing Samoa. There do certainly appear to be signs of progress under Guy Noves, as evidenced by narrow defeats to Australia and New Zealand. The lack of an established place-kicker could prove problematic, however.

France, without a win at Twickenham since 2007, have also been beset by injury issues and will be without influential centre Wesley Fofana for the entire tournament due to a ruptured achilles tendon. Prop Eddy Ben Arous, Francois Trinh-Duc, Jefferson Poirot, Charles Ollivon, Camille Chat, Raphael Lakafia and Henry Chavancy are also sidelined, while Yann David, called up for the first time in seven years, has a thigh problem.

Wesley Fofana
Wesley Fofana's absence is a big blow for France

22-year-old Baptiste Serin surprisingly wins his sixth cap ahead of Maxime Machenaud and partners Camille Lopez at half-back. Toulouse's Gael Fickou, accompanied in midfield by Remi Lamerat with the imposing Mathieu Bastareaud not even named as a replacement, is tasked with filling Fofana's attacking shoes.


England: 15. Mike Brown, 14. Jonny May, 13. Jonathan Joseph, 12. Owen Farrell, 11. Elliot Daly, 10. George Ford, 9. Ben Youngs; 1. Joe Marler, 2. Dylan Hartley (c), 3. Dan Cole, 4. Joe Launchbury, 5. Courtney Lawes, 6. Maro Itoje, 7. Tom Wood, 8. Nathan Hughes.

Replacements: 16. Jamie George, 17. Matt Mullan, 18. Kyle Sinckler, 19. Teimana Harrison, 20. James Haskell, 21. Danny Care, 22. Ben Te'o, 23. Jack Nowell.

France: 15. Scott Spedding, 14. Noa Nakaitaci, 13. Remi Lamerat, 12. Gael Fickou, 11. Virimi Vakatawa, 10. Camille Lopez, 9. Baptiste Serin; 1. Cyril Baille, 2. Guilhem Guirado (c), 3. Uini Atonio, 4. Sebastien Vahaamahina, 5. Yoann Maestri, 6. Damien Chouly, 7. Kevin Gourdon, 8. Louis Picamoles.

Replacements: 16. Clement Maynadier, 17. Rabah Slimani, 18. Xavier Chiocci, 19. Arthur Iturria, 20. Loann Goujon, 21. Maxime Machenaud, 22. Jean Marc Doussain.

What the coaches say:

Eddie Jones
Eddie Jones has promised another war between England and France on Saturday

Eddie Jones: "We've been able to select a very strong and experienced team to play against France and we are excited to get the tournament underway. There's a great rivalry between the countries so we're looking forward to a great occasion playing against one of England's oldest foes.

"In rugby terms you've traditionally got two contrasting styles – French flair and England's dogged conservative approach, but we want to be absolutely daring against the French in this first game and set the standard for the tournament."

Guy Noves [quotes via BT Sport]: "Our expectations this year are to build a team that continues to improve constantly, to get closer to our opponents. Last time last year we had matches we lost that we could have won, and vice versa.

"We're not that far from our opponents, but we must be more efficient. We cross the advantage line more than others, but we do not score, we don't achieve really, so the ratio is not very good. We have to try to reverse this ratio, and we must be killers in some areas so that we can chase wins."