France v England, Six Nations, March 20
Johnson wields the axe for Paris finale
March 17, 2010
Northampton winger Chris Ashton is set to make his England debut in Paris © Getty Images
England manager Martin Johnson has wielded the axe for his side's final Six Nations clash with France at the Stade de France in Paris.
Toby Flood will start at fly-half ahead of Jonny Wilkinson in one of six changes to the side which drew 15-15 with Scotland at Murrayfield last weekend. The only previous occasions when Wilkinson was dropped from the England team were for Paul Grayson at the 1999 World Cup and for Danny Cipriani in the 2008 Six Nations. Wilkinson suffered a heavy blow to the head at Murrayfield and was forced from the field, but has been passed fit after monitoring from the England medics and is named on the bench.
Flood made a difference to England's laboured attacking game when he came on at Murrayfield and will look to unleash a revamped back line which features Ben Foden, debutant winger Chris Ashton and Mike Tindall. Foden gets his long-awaited chance to start at fullback after two eye-catching cameo appearances off the bench. The off-form Delon Armitage has dropped out of the squad altogether.
Ashton has scored 19 tries in 25 games for Northampton this season and will make his Test debut on the wing in place of Ugo Monye, who damaged his neck at Murrayfield. Tindall, who has made three starts for Gloucester after four months out with a hamstring injury, returns to the England team in place of Mathew Tait at outside centre.
The axe has also fallen on James Haskell, who slips to the bench with Lewis Moody back in the starting XV at openside flanker with Joe Worsley moving to blindside. Simon Shaw reclaims his place in the second row from Louis Deacon after missing the Scotland game through injury.
England captain Steve Borthwick was named in the team but was later ruled out of the game having failed to shake off a long-standing knee injury. Leicester's Louis Deacon steps into the second row with Stade Francais lock Tom Palmer joining the replacements. But the most significant enforced change sees Moody take on the captaincy.
France have recalled rampaging centre Mathieu Bastareaud for the game as they chase what would be their ninth Championship clean sweep. The Stade Francais midfielder replaces Perpignan's David Marty after returning to full fitness, with Marty dropping to the bench despite scoring a brace in Les Bleus' thrilling victory over Italy last weekend.
Marc Andreu, the diminutive Castres wing, retains his place out wide after notching his maiden Test try against the Azzurri and once again the halfback partnership of Morgan Parra and Francois Trinh-Duc has been retained.
The balanced back-row of Imanol Harinordoquy, Julien Bonnaire and Thierry Dusautoir are called together again while the power up front will come from a lock pairing of Lionel Nallet and Julien Pierre and the front-row of Thomas Domingo, William Servat and Nicolas Mas.
France: C Poitrenaud (Toulouse); M Andreu (Castres), M Bastareaud (Stade Francais), Y Jauzion (Toulouse), A Palisson (Brive); F Trinh-Duc (Montpellier), M Parra (Clermont Auvergne); T Domingo (Clermont Auvergne), W Servat (Toulouse), N Mas (Perpignan), L Nallet (Racing Metro), J Pierre (Clermont Auvergne) T Dusautoir (Toulouse, captain), J Bonnaire (Clermont Auvergne), I Harinordoquy (Biarritz)
Replacements: D Szarzewski (Stade Francais), J-B Poux (Toulouse), S Chabal (Racing Metro), A Lapandry (Clermont Auvergne), D Yachvili (Biarritz), D Marty (Perpignan), J Malzieu (Clermont Auvergne)
England: B Foden (Northampton); M Cueto (Sale Sharks), M Tindall (Gloucester), R Flutey (Brive), C Ashton (Northampton); T Flood (Leicester), D Care (Harlequins); T Payne (Wasps), D Hartley (Northampton), D Cole (Leicester), S Shaw (Wasps), L Deacon (Leicester), J Worsley (Wasps), L Moody (Leicester, capt), N Easter (Harlequins).
Replacements: S Thompson (Brive), D Wilson (Bath), T Palmer (Stade Francais), J Haskell (Stade Francais), B Youngs (Leicester), J Wilkinson (Toulon), M Tait (Sale Sharks).
Referee: Bryce Lawrence (NZ)
Assistant referees: Alain Rolland (Ire), Simon McDowell (Ire)