Brian Ashton has repeatedly indicated his intention to field his first-choice XV for the final match in the warm-up series against France in Marseilles. If there were critics of Andy Farrell’s inclusion in the 30-man World Cup squad yesterday, there will be even more now that he has been selected in the ‘first-choice’ team.
However, the England head coach has said he is still testing combinations as it would be unfair to judge a number of players based on the Wales debacle alone. Last week’s captain Mike Catt will be relieved to hear this news, as he does not feature in the 22.
Tom Rees makes his first appearance of the series at openside, with Martin Corry on the blindside and four-try hero Nick Easter at Number 8.
Perry Freshwater is given a chance to impress after Andrew Sheridan was hospitalised following an insect bite, whilst George Chuter also starts ahead of Mark Regan.
Mark Cueto will start at full-back, with World Cup winners Josh Lewsey and Jason Robinson on the wings – this could well be the first choice combination at the back.
England will face a stern test of their credentials away from home against France, in front of a notoriously hostile French crowd. After last week’s narrow defeat, they will surely be looking for a victory to send them into the World Cup on the back of a positive result.
England team to play France in Marseille on Saturday
M Cueto (Sale Sharks); J Lewsey (Wasps), D Hipkiss (Leicester), A Farrell Saracens), J Robinson (unattached); J Wilkinson (Newcastle), S Perry (Bristol); P Freshwater (Perpignan), G Chuter (Leicester), P Vickery (Wasps, capt), S Shaw (Wasps), S Borthwick (Bath), M Corry (Leicester), T Rees (Wasps), N Easter (Harlequins).
Replacements: L Mears (Bath), M Stevens (Bath), J Worsley (Wasps), L Dallaglio (Wasps), A Gomarsall (Harlequins), O Barkley (Bath), P Sackey (Wasps).