England name strong side to face France in World Cup warm-up

Mike Brown
Mike Brown is set to earn his 38th cap for England in Paris
France v England
Venue: Stade de France Date: Saturday, 22 August Kick-off: 20:00 BST
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio 5 live from 19:50 BST, highlights on BBC One from 23:40 BST

England will field a strong team for their World Cup warm-up match against France in Paris on Saturday, with full-back Mike Brown playing for the first time since his head injury in March.

Wing Jonny May is the only player to keep his place from England's 19-14 win over the same opponents last weekend.

Captain Chris Robshaw returns to a pack that includes a front three of Joe Marler, Tom Youngs and Dan Cole.

Luther Burrell starts at centre, with fly-half Danny Cipriani on the bench.

The game is England's second of three warm-up matches for the World Cup, which the hosts start against Fiji at Twickenham on 18 September.

England team to face France
M Brown (Harlequins); J Nowell (Exeter), J Joseph (Bath), L Burrell (Northampton), J May (Gloucester); G Ford (Bath), B Youngs (Leicester); J Marler (Harlequins), T Youngs (Leicester), D Cole (Leicester); J Launchbury (Wasps), C Lawes (Northampton); J Haskell (Wasps), Chris Robshaw (capt, Harlequins), Billy Vunipola (Saracens).
Replacements: Jamie George (Saracens), Mako Vunipola (Saracens), David Wilson (Bath), Dave Attwood (Bath), Nick Easter (Harlequins), Danny Care (Harlequins), Danny Cipriani (Sale), Billy Twelvetrees (Gloucester).

Head coach Stuart Lancaster must name his 31-man squad for the tournament by 31 August.

England's starting XV includes 12 of the side that beat France 55-35 in their final match of this year's Six Nations.

"In terms of naming the 31, we're getting there," said Lancaster. "It's been a very difficult selection process this week, I found it hard in a lot of ways.

"What happens in the next two games will have a bearing, but what's happened over the past eight weeks will have a big bearing as well."

Analysis - Chris Jones, BBC Radio 5 live rugby correspondent
After Sam Burgess and Henry Slade impressed at Twickenham, all eyes will now be on Luther Burrell, who needs a big game in Paris with his place in the final squad under threat.
Billy Twelvetrees and Danny Cipriani will have one last opportunity off the bench, while Jamie George will make his debut as he looks to secure one of the three hooker spots in the 31-man squad. On the whole though, this is almost a full-strength England side, the forward pack especially could easily line up against Fiji in the tournament opener.

Brown back to his best?

Brown, who replaces Alex Goode at full-back, was knocked out during the Six Nations. The 29-year-old was rested by Harlequins for the end of last season after suffering from headaches.

"He's been at his competitive best in training. He's fit, he's quick. He's ready for the challenge," said Lancaster.

"He's one of our true competitors in the team and he's definitely 100% right, physically."

Launchbury makes long-awaited return

Joe Launchbury
Joe Launchbury has not played for England for 12 months

Joe Launchbury, who partners Courtney Lawes at lock, will make his first England appearance since last summer's tour of New Zealand.

The 24-year-old Wasps forward had neck surgery in December and missed all of the Six Nations.

Saracens hooker Jamie George is named in his first England matchday squad and is expected to win his first cap from the bench.

"I'm delighted for Jamie and also Joe, who has worked tirelessly and patiently to get back to fitness," said Lancaster.

Lancaster's forward pack is likely to resemble his first-choice line-up for the World Cup, with flanker Tom Wood possibly competing with James Haskell for the number six shirt.

Centre selection dilemma

Jonathan Joseph and Luther Burrell
Jonathan Joseph and Luther Burrell will form the centre partnership against France

This game, and next week's warm-up against Ireland at Twickenham, will be the last opportunities for Burrell, Henry Slade, Billy Twelvetrees and Sam Burgess to persuade Lancaster they should go to the World Cup.

Brad Barritt and Jonathan Joseph are expected to be two of Lancaster's four centre selections, and after Slade and Burgess impressed against France last week, Northampton's Burrell is given his chance to start.

Gloucester's Twelvetrees also has an opportunity to make an impact from the replacements' bench.

Sale's Cipriani is on the bench for the second consecutive match, as he pursues an outside possibility of jumping ahead of George Ford or Owen Farrell at fly-half.

"We had a training session this afternoon which had Farrell, Slade and Burgess playing against Ford, Burrell and Joseph," said Lancaster on Tuesday.

"We obviously took elements out like the tackle, but in everything else it felt like it wasn't far off a full game."

England's World Cup warm-ups
England 19-14 France
France v England, 22 August
England v Ireland, 5 September