Elliot Daly replaces Immanuel Feyi-Waboso as England keep continuity for France clash

Elliot Daly starts on the wing for England against France  (Getty Images)
Elliot Daly starts on the wing for England against France (Getty Images)

It reflects how both England and France hit their stride last weekend that the two starting sides for Saturday’s encounter in Lyon would have been entirely unchanged if not for Immanuel Feyi-Waboso’s concussion symptoms. The England wing has been ruled out after entering the head injury return to play process and deserves credit for reporting that he was struggling even after a breakthrough performance; his scratching from Steve Borthwick’s team is England’s sole alteration, and France’s 23 is intact from the win over Wales.

While England’s outstanding performance against Ireland – their best in the Six Nations for half-a-decade at least – took the headlines, France were also quietly content with their showing in Cardiff, recognising that a few defensive errors were to be expected from a backline containing three first-time starters.

Continuity and cohesion, each coach in this championship has been keen to remind us, remain king in international rugby union; it would make no sense to change a winning side at this juncture as both France and England seek a winning finish that could yet secure them the title.

Immanuel Feyi-Waboso has been ruled out of England’s final fixture (Getty Images)
Immanuel Feyi-Waboso has been ruled out of England’s final fixture (Getty Images)

For France particularly, such a scenario is surely far-fetched, while England could well know that they are simply squabbling for second long before kick-off in Lyon on Saturday night. But for Borthwick’s side particularly, momentum feels vital heading into a testing summer itinerary in Japan and New Zealand.

After the win over Ireland, Borthwick noted the strides that had been made in forging connections in the backline, particularly between George Furbank and his running mates. The Northampton man is a very different full-back stylistically to Freddie Steward, who had made the shirt his own since his debut, and that has required adjusting to.

There are similarities in some ways to the change of goalkeeper made by Pep Guardiola when he arrived at Manchester City: Joe Hart, the established option, was jettisoned to bring in Claudio Bravo, a player better suited to how Guardiola wished to develop the team.

The continued backing of George Furbank indicates how England hope to evolve (Getty Images)
The continued backing of George Furbank indicates how England hope to evolve (Getty Images)

While the Bravo signing ultimately failed, it was a show of intent from Guardiola, and paved the way for Ederson to help convert the club’s financial advantages into consistent on-field success. Furbank will hope to have greater permanence than the Chilean goalkeeper enjoyed; Steward, at 23, still has time on his side to prove that he is more than just the shot-stopper some dismiss him as.

Alongside Furbank in the back three is a returning Elliot Daly in Feyi-Waboso’s place. The 21-year-old was excellent on his first international start, responding to Borthwick’s backing positively. His existing relationship and understanding with Henry Slade was cited afterwards as part of the reason that the head coach felt able to trust a young wing in a pressure game. Daly lacks the club connection that the pair enjoy but has played plenty of rugby alongside the Exeter centre and will again look to lead the hard outside blitz that caused Ireland problems.

Up front, Borthwick sticks with three lineout jumpers again, as Ben Earl and Sam Underhill continue to refine their roles having been given licence to do what they do best against Ireland. With Ollie Chessum on the blindside and George Martin’s extra grunt in the second row, it looks a more balanced pack than the one that started the tournament.

While the Chessum, Martin and Itoje trio worked brilliantly against Ireland, it will face a significant challenge against this super-sized French pack. Not only can Fabien Galthie deploy two behemoths in Uini Atonio and Emmanuel Meafou on the tighthead side from the start, but two similarly large men in Georges-Henri Colombe and Romain Taofifenua lurk on the bench having shown the sort of impact they can make in Cardiff last weekend. Back rowers Charles Ollivon, Francois Cros and Gregory Alldritt don’t lack for stature, either – England can expect to be tested in the tight.

France’s power game was to the fore against Wales (Getty Images)
France’s power game was to the fore against Wales (Getty Images)

But an attack that fizzed and crackled throughout against Ireland will be encouraged by the joy Wales found getting after France in the wide channels. Youngsters Nicolas Depoortere and Leo Barre are backed again after making debuts at the Principality and should develop more cohesion, but there were plenty of spaces apparent even for a Welsh side losing most of the collisions. Losing Feyi-Waboso’s cut and thrust through contact is a significant blow but Daly is a shrewd footballer who will know that he may need a big performance to preserve his place in a competitive backline shake-up ahead of the summer tour to New Zealand.

Equally, Danny Care himself might admit that his landmark appearance last week did not entirely go to plan and will recognise that this may well be his last Six Nations involvement. It may prove to be Manu Tuilagi’s too – the Sale centre is mulling a move away from the Sharks with finances proving a problem for the club. Bayonne are believed to be leading the chase for a player long linked with a sojourn abroad.

Tuilagi will miss out on an encounter with his nephew, with the availability of Meafou and Taofifenua allowing Posolo to be released to France’s Under 20s, who take on England in Pau on Friday night and will take some stopping. Tuilagi the elder may not be talked about in those terms any longer but is still a useful bench option for Borthwick, who has lost the carrying punch of Chandler Cunningham-South from his squad due to a calf injury. Again finding the sustained intensity of collisions that so characterised the Ireland win is surely a must against a French side that showed in Cardiff that there will be no let-up in their physicality.

England XV to face France in Lyon (8pm GMT, Saturday 16 March)

15. George Furbank (Northampton Saints, 8 caps)

14. Tommy Freeman (Northampton Saints, 7 caps)

13. Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs, 61 caps)

12. Ollie Lawrence (Bath Rugby, 23 caps)

11. Elliot Daly (Saracens, 68 caps)

10. George Ford (Sale Sharks, 95 caps)

9. Alex Mitchell (Northampton Saints, 14 caps)

1. Ellis Genge (Bristol Bears, 61 caps)

2. Jamie George (Saracens, 89 caps) – captain

3. Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers, 111 caps)

4. Maro Itoje (Saracens, 80 caps)

5. George Martin (Leicester Tigers, 11 caps)

6. Ollie Chessum (Leicester Tigers, 22 caps)

7. Sam Underhill (Bath Rugby, 34 caps)

8. Ben Earl (Saracens, 29 caps)


16. Theo Dan (Saracens, 11 caps)

17. Joe Marler (Harlequins, 92 caps)

18. Will Stuart (Bath Rugby, 37 caps)

19. Ethan Roots (Exeter Chiefs, 3 caps)

20. Alex Dombrandt (Harlequins, 16 caps)

21. Danny Care (Harlequins, 100 caps)

22. Marcus Smith (Harlequins, 31 caps)

23. Manu Tuilagi (Sale Sharks, 59 caps)