While there was much to admire in England’s performance at Twickenham last weekend, Stuart Lancaster will be looking for improvement here.
Wingers Anthony Watson and Jonny May (the only player to retain his place this weekend) shone the brightest, while Sam Burgess did enough in his much anticipated debut to suggest we’ll see more of him in the autumn.
Alongside the league convert, Henry Slade also impressed on his first appearance giving Lancaster something of a selection headache in midfield – no pressure on Luther Burrell here then.
However, up front the pack failed to fire and expect the likes of Billy Vunipola, Tom Youngs and Courtney Lawes to get them rumbling again at the Stade de France. With the clock ticking, Lancaster names something close to his starting XV here, with 12 of the team that put 55 points on France in the Six Nations selected.
There are also welcome returns for second row Joe Launchbury, who plays his first international in a year, while Mike Brown makes his first start since suffering concussion in March.
For France it was pretty much the polar opposite last week with their second-string backline failing to advance their claims. Up front, however they flexed their muscles and finished the stronger.
After naming a largely reserve team in Twickenham, Philippe Saint-Andre has brought back the big guns with Wesley Fofana and Toulon wrecking-ball Mathieu Bastareaud renewing their central partnership.
Only three players –– full back Scott Spedding, second row Yohann Maestri and the marauding Louis Picamoles – retain their place, while the mercurial Freddie Michalak is tasked with orchestrating a much stronger looking back division.
With the final of England’s trio of warm-up fixtures scheduled for September 5 – after the RWC squad has been finalised – this really is last chance saloon for the likes of Danny Cipriani, who starts on the bench after a fairly anonymous cameo last week. Sarries Jamie George, too, gets his chance to stake a claim for a hooker berth and should win his first cap from the bench.
French skipper Thierry Dusautoir again misses out through injury although Saint-Andre insists the 33-year-old will be ready for the World Cup, with Pascal Pape leading the side out for this one.
France could do with confidence boost ahead of their final warm-up game against Scotland and have every incentive to put one over the World Cup hosts. It’s a tight call but England look that bit more coherent and have lost only one of their last five encounters with France so should just shade it. The visitors are available at 29/20Add to betslip (-4).
The match kicks off at 8pm on Saturday August 22nd at Stade de France, Paris