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France v England: George Furbank starts Six Nations opener


George Furbank

Furbank has three tries in 11 appearance for Northampton this season

Northampton full-back George Furbank will make his England debut against France in the Six Nations on Sunday.

With Anthony Watson ruled out, Furbank, 23, lines up in the back three along with Elliot Daly and Jonny May.

There is no Mako Vunipola, with Joe Marler starting at loose-head prop and Ellis Genge on the bench.

Tom Curry starts at number eight with Courtney Lawes on the flank, while Charlie Ewels partners Maro Itoje in the second row.

“We have picked a strong forward pack which is part of the England way and an exciting backline with young George Furbank playing his first Test at full-back,” said head coach Eddie Jones.

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England: Furbank; May, Tuilagi, Farrell (capt), Daly; Ford, B Youngs; Marler, George, Sinckler, Itoje, Ewels, Lawes, Underhill, Curry.

Replacements: Cowan-Dickie, Genge, Stuart, Kruis, Ludlam, Heinz, Devoto, Joseph

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Stuart set for debut

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Stuart, 23, previously represented England under-20s, winning an age-grade world title

Jones has made three personnel changes from the side dismantled by South Africa in the World Cup final in November.

Billy Vunipola and Watson are both missing through injury, while the reason for Mako Vunipola’s absence has yet to be specified.

The prop picked up a minor eye injury in the week, although the England management insisted he was available for selection.

Elsewhere Jones has reverted to his World Cup axis in the midfield, with George Ford continuing at fly-half and captain Owen Farrell alongside Manu Tuilagi in the midfield.

Among the replacements, Bath tight-head Will Stuart is set to make his debut, while Exeter centre Ollie Devoto is in line to win just his second cap.

“It has been a massively exciting week for us,” Jones added.

“It is the start of the Guinness Six Nations, the best rugby tournament in the world. We have had a great preparation in Portugal with a quality training week this week.”

‘Now is the time for Furbank’

Furbank has enjoyed a breakthrough season at Northampton, and former England and Saints scrum-half Matt Dawson says the time is now right to test him at the highest level.

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George Furbank: Northampton full-back revisits start of rugby union journey

“We will find out if he is ready,” Dawson said on the Matt Dawson Rugby Show on BBC 5 live.

“I truly believe that for every nation in the Six Nations, this next year – or the next 18 months – is when we should be seeing players like Furbank.”

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