Unchanged for England as four Saints start

Pictures by Linda Dawson

Pictures by Linda Dawson

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Stuart Lancaster has named an unchanged team for England’s clash with France on Sunday.

It means four Saints players - Ben Foden, Dylan Hartley, Chris Ashton and Lee Dickson - will take their place in the starting line-up.

Another Saint, Phil Dowson, keeps his place on the bench.

It also sees Owen Farrell retain the fly-half jersey for despite the return to fitness of Charlie Hodgson.

Farrell’s impressive international debut at fly-half in England’s 19-12 defeat to Wales drew comparison with Jonny Wilkinson and he keeps the role in an unchanged starting line-up for the Paris showdown.

Hodgson, who started at fly-half with Farrell at inside centre in England’s wins against Scotland and Italy, returns from a finger injury to replace Toby Flood on the bench.

Stade Francais lock Tom Palmer also returns to the 22-man squad with a seat on the bench after Courtney Lawes was ruled out of the tournament with a shin injury.

Lancaster said: “We were really disappointed to lose to Wales but we took a lot out of the performance and felt it was right to pick the same starting team to go to Paris.

“It will be a massive challenge going to the Stade de France and playing against an experienced and unbeaten French side but we are excited about the opportunity and want to do the country proud.”

Hodgson is Saracens’ first-choice fly-half and Farrell lines up in the centres at club level, which was how England started their Six Nations campaign.

But Farrell’s mature performance at Twickenham two weekends ago has pushed him ahead of Hodgson as England’s first choice playmaker.

England’s starting line-up features only five of the side that started the 19-12 World Cup quarter-final defeat to France in October - Foden, Ashton, Manu Tuilagi, Dan Cole and Tom Croft.

France, who went on to reach the World Cup final, have not lost at home in 10 Six Nations games following their 17-17 draw with Ireland last weekend.