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Full-back Malins to make first start for England against France in Six Nations

Max Malins runs with the ball against France
Max Malins has six England caps but has never started for his country before
Venue: Twickenham Stadium Date: Saturday, 13 March Kick-off: 16:45 GMT
Coverage: Listen to commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live; live text commentary and post-match video highlights on the BBC Sport website and app.

Max Malins will make his first start for England after being named at full-back for Saturday’s Six Nations match with France at Twickenham.

Malins, 24, is one of three changes from the side beaten by Wales, with Luke Cowan-Dickie starting at hooker and Charlie Ewels in the second row.

Experienced duo Elliot Daly and Jamie George drop to the bench, as does lock Jonny Hill.

Centre Ollie Lawrence is also included in the matchday squad of 23.

England’s title defence is all but over after losses to Scotland and Wales, while France are hoping to get their Grand Slam bid back on track after a coronavirus outbreak in camp.

“We are of course disappointed that we can’t defend the championship, but that makes this an even more important game,” said head coach Eddie Jones.

“We want to show what we are capable of.”

Anthony Watson, who scored a try in the 40-24 defeat in Cardiff, wins his 50th cap on the right wing, and lines up alongside Jonny May and Malins in the back three.

In the forwards, Cowan Dickie makes just his fifth start for his country, joining experienced props Kyle Sinckler and Mako Vunipola in the front row.

Ewels partners Maro Itoje at lock, with an unchanged back row of Mark Wilson, Tom Curry and Billy Vunipola.

Grand-Slam chasing France are unbeaten in the tournament so far, but have not played in a month after a coronavirus outbreak forced the postponement of their round-three fixture against Scotland.

“The squad have competed really hard in training since Sunday,” added Jones.

“I believe this is the best 23 to really take the game to France and get us on the front foot.”

A Six Nations table showing: Wales P 3, W 3, PD 22, B 2, Pts 14; France P 2, W 2, PD 42, B 1, Pts 9; Ireland P 3, W 1, PD 31, B 3, Pts 7; England P 3, W 1, PD 2, B 2, Pts 6; Scotland P 2, W 1, PD 4, B 1, Pts 5, Italy P 3, W 0, PD -101, B 0, Pts 0

‘Dangerous’ Malins gets chance

Daly has been Jones’ preferred full-back since 2018, but the 28-year-old has struggled to find his best form in the tournament so far.

His demotion to the replacements has given Malins the chance to start, having made his England debut in November.

The versatile back has been in eye-catching form for Bristol, where he is currently on loan from Saracens.

England captain Owen Farrell described Malins as a “dangerous player” while head coach Jones told BBC Sport he had always seen the full-back as “a player of promise”.

“His training form week by week has got better and better,” Jones continued. “We feel like he’s ready to be the starting full-back.

“He’s got good acceleration, he’s courageous and he’s got a good feel for the game.”

‘We try to balance historic and present form’ – Jones

Although Saracens hooker George has been benched for the second time this championship, Jones said the forward “was much closer to himself” in the Wales game.

Cowan-Dickie started England’s win against Italy and takes George’s place in the XV once again as Jones looks to freshen up his underperforming side.

Some fans may have wished for a greater number of changes given recent defeats but the England coach said the side is in a “transitional period” which he is hoping to navigate by blending the experience in the squad with younger players.

For Jones, it is not as simple as purely picking those who are currently playing well.

“Form dictates everything but there are two types of form,” he said.

“There’s historic form and present form. For some players, they get more because their historic form has been good. We try to get that balance right.

“Results are important but not the be all and end all. As an England side we’re expected to win every game and we want to win every game but at the same time there is a responsibility to develop a team for the 2023 World Cup.”

England team to play France

England: Malins; Watson, Slade, Farrell, May; Ford, Youngs; M Vunipola, Cowan-Dickie, Sinckler, Itoje, Ewels, Wilson, Curry, B Vunipola.

Replacements: George, Genge, Stuart, Hill, Earl, Robson, Lawrence, Daly.

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