Chris Ashton makes surprise return to England XV

Chris Ashton has been recalled to the England starting team to face France

Chris Ashton has been recalled to the England starting team to face France

England have sprung a surprise by naming Chris Ashton in place of Jack Nowell for Sunday's Guinness Six Nations clash with France at Twickenham.

Nowell started in England's Six Nations opener against Ireland on Saturday, with the Red Rose easing to a 32-20 win.

England have won nine of the last 12 Six Nations meetings between the sides and start as heavy favourites against a France team that blew a 16-0 lead at home to Wales in round one.

The other change to the side announced on Friday is in the pack where Courtney Lawes comes into the second row after Maro Itoje suffered a knee injury against Ireland in Dublin.

Itoje was expected to be missing until the final rounds but he could now be back sooner than expected from his grade two medial ligament tear, although Jones declined to reveal whether that would be in time for the February 23 appointment with Wales.

"We have gone for Chris Ashton on the wing; we think he might sneak us a try early in the game", Jones added. We have got great depth in the squad so Joe Launchbury and Courtney Lawes will fill his shoes very well.

Ben Moon and Dan Cole will serve as back-up props this week at the expense of Ellis Genge and Harry Williams.

Neither flanker Brad Shields nor wing Joe Cokanasiga have made the matchday 23 despite recovering from respective side and knee injuries.

Ashton is well known to France's players after spending a season at Toulon in which he set a new Top 14 try-scoring record of 24 touch downs in 23 appearances before joining Sale last summer. He made his first appearance for four years during the autumn and scored his 20 worldwide try in the first minute against New Zealand the following week.

Ashton came off the bench in the closing stages of last week's victory over Ireland but has been promoted for only his third start under Eddie Jones. "Players have been very good and certainly by Sunday we'll be at our best", Jones said.

"They are a team full of talent".

Jones branded Sunday's showdown at Twickenham as the "most important game of the year" and England will go into it having put on arguably their best display under the Australian last weekend. Manu Tuilagi, 11. Jonny May, 10. Ben Youngs; 1. Mako Vunipola, 2. George Kruis, 6. Mark Wilson, 7.

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