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5 talking points ahead of England’s Six Nations opener in France

Eddie Jones has taken a bold step by pitching uncapped Northampton full-back George Furbank into the Stade de France showdown.

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Uncapped Northampton full-back George Furbank is in England’s starting XV (Darren Staples/PA)

Uncapped Northampton full-back George Furbank is in England’s starting XV (Darren Staples/PA)

Uncapped Northampton full-back George Furbank is in England’s starting XV (Darren Staples/PA)

England open their Guinness Six Nations title quest against France in Paris on Sunday as tournament favourites.

Here, the PA news agency examines five talking points heading into the game.

Furbank the future at fifteen

Eddie Jones has taken a bold step by pitching uncapped Northampton full-back George Furbank into the Stade de France showdown. Furbank’s dynamic running skills as part of a roaming brief have been instrumental in Saints’ resurgence this season but his lack of international experience is sure to be targeted by French half-backs Romain Ntamack and Antoine Dupont.

Time runs out for Daly experiment

The safer option once Anthony Watson had been ruled out by a calf injury would have been to retain Elliot Daly at full-back, but the ploy of playing the outside centre-cum-wing at 15 appears over. Daly never convinced in a position he has occupied since June 2018 and his below-par appearance in the World Cup final loss to South Africa is likely to be his final outing there.

Brutal Eddie

Jones has caused a stir in France after demanding England produce rugby of “brutal physicality” on Sunday. The controversy is over the connotations of the word brutal, which when translated means “violent”. France coach Fabien Galthie and manager Raphael Ibanez have returned fire, but Jones is unapologetic, declaring “you should translate it in a better way”.

World Cup hangover?

A 32-12 drubbing by the Springboks brought Japan 2019 to a heartbreaking conclusion as the team that had dismantled Australia and New Zealand in the previous rounds were routed in Yokohama. The defeat has been thoroughly debriefed, but the extent of the scarring will only become evident at the Stade de France.

Evolution not revolution

France’s brave new era is not quite the radical overhaul by their head coach Galthie that was previously trumpeted. There are nine survivors from the starting XV edged by Wales in the World Cup quarter-final in October including Ntamack and Dupont and devastating outside-centre Virimi Vakatawa. The backline bristles with attacking threats but if there is a weakness it possibly lies up-front in the form of an underpowered pack.

PA