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England expected to retain starting XV

Interim head coach Stuart Lancaster will confirm the England team to play France in Sunday's RBS 6 Nations encounter in Paris on Friday morning, and he looks set to keep changes to a minimum.

Owen Farrell is expected to be retained at fly-half in the same starting XV that pushed title favourites Wales close at Twickenham 13 days ago.

The only changes Lancaster will make are on the bench, where Charlie Hodgson returns in place of Toby Flood after recovering from a finger injury.

Courtney Lawes will be sidelined for the rest of the championship with a shin complaint and his place on the bench will go to Tom Palmer, who returns after being dropped for the Wales game.

For hooker Dylan Hartley and prop Dan Cole, Sunday's clash at the will represent an opportunity for redemption following their Stade de France humbling two years ago.

Hartley and Cole, both still relative international rookies, were hauled off at half-time after France had sent England's scrum on the retreat.

France's tighthead prop Nicolas Mas was the destroyer in chief and that painful experience is still etched on the minds of both players.

Mas starts for Les Bleus this weekend and Hartley's motivation is fuelled by the chance for revenge.

"I can still picture it. I can still see those scrums," Hartley said. "A little bit of redemption would be nice this time. There are some demons to exorcise. It is inexcusable for an English pack to be pushed back on our own ball.

"I remember being sat in the changing room in Paris after that game thinking: 'Wow, you just don't get taken off at half-time'."


From Belfast Telegraph