Telegraph writers pick their teams to face Les Bleus
To hell with change. This is no time for squad rotation, for wrapping players in cotton wool in case of injury before the last eight. England have yet to fully hit their straps, partly through their own inadequacies, partly because they faced an Argentina side reduced to 14 men. Now is the time to maintain momentum and nail a morale-boosting win. So, the same starters bar injured Billy Vunipola.
Eddie Jones has to strike a balance between resting players, avoiding injuries and picking a side to beat France – which England will want to do. They cannot overthink the likely quarter-final match-ups. Owen Farrell needs a break and Joe Cokanasiga is ideal for the wing against France, while Jack Nowell is now fit. England’s pack is so strong that Jones would not lose much by rotating.
This is a team that allows Jones to rest some of his frontline players for the quarter-final against either Wales or Australia, while continuing to intensify competition for places and, critically, allow Mako Vunipola and Jack Nowell more game time to prove their match fitness after such long lay-offs because of injury.
With qualification in the bag, this is too good an opportunity to resist resting a few key players. Manu Tuilagi is the exception. In Billy Vunipola’s expected absence, his ball-carrying ability is irreplaceable, but he could be replaced early on. Nowell, Henry Slade and Mako Vunipola in particular could have big roles to play later in the tournament but need as many minutes as they can get after injury.