LONDON — Maro Itoje will switch from lock to the back row for England’s opening Six Nations match against France as coach Eddie Jones deals with an injury crisis.
With five of England’s first-choice forwards missing for the start of its title defence , Jones has dipped into his deep pool of back-ups for the match at Twickenham.
Itoje, the new star of the English game, will start as blindside flanker in the absence of the injured Chris Robshaw, with Joe Launchbury and Courtney Lawes making up the second row where George Kruis is also missing because of knee ligament damage.
Joe Marler is back from a broken leg to start at loosehead prop in place of Mako Vunipola and No. 8 Nathan Hughes replaces Billy Vunipola, who will miss the whole tournament after undergoing knee surgery.
Elliot Daly was selected ahead of Jack Nowell on the left wing when Jones announced his team on Thursday.
England has won its last 14 games — 13 under Jones since he took charge after the 2015 Rugby World Cup — and starts the Six Nations as favourite .
“In rugby terms, you’ve traditionally got two contrasting styles — French flair and England’s dogged conservative approach,” Jones said, “but we want to be absolutely daring against the French in this first game and set the standard for the tournament.”
England team: Mike Brown, Jonny May, Jonathan Joseph, Owen Farrell, Elliot Daly, George Ford, Ben Youngs; Nathan Hughes, Tom Wood, Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes, Joe Launchbury, Dan Cole, Dylan Hartley, Joe Marler. Reserves: Jamie George, Matt Mullan, Kyle Sinckler, Teimana Harrison, James Haskell, Danny Care, Ben Te’o, Jack Nowell.