England have made a statement of intent by dropping both Chris Ashton and Ben Youngs from their squad to face France on the opening weekend of the Six Nations.
It is the first time since he announced himself on the international stage in 2010 with nine tries in as many games that Ashton, who is the leading try scorer in this season’s Heineken Cup, has been left out by England.
But Stuart Lancaster is keen to see what wingers Johnny May and uncapped duo Jack Nowell and Anthony Watson can do at the highest level and there is no bigger test in the Six Nations than facing the French in Paris.
England are 13/8 for victory in “Le Crunch” and whoever is selected on the wings will need to hit the ground running against Les Blues, who are 8/15 to get their campaign off to the best possible start.
Earlier this month our news team highlighted May as one to watch in England’s Six Nations top tryscorer market, but with Nowell and Watson both vying for starting spots all three are viable options at 4/1, 6/1 and 16/1 respectively with Ladbrokes, depending on Lancaster’s final team selection.
And it is not just in the wing positions where England have been ruthless with their squad selection.
Ben Youngs, who has made 33 appearances for England and was the Lions’ Test scrum-half last summer , has also been axed by Lancaster with Harlequins’ Danny Care and Northampton man Lee Dickson retained to battle it out for the number nine jersey.
England, who are 9/4 to win their first Six Nations crown since 2011, are set to hand Saints centre Luther Burrell his international debut and in-form Bath fly-half George Ford will provide cover to Owen Farrell from the bench in what will be a very youthful England side.
England Squad to face France:
Forwards: David Attwood (Bath Rugby), Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers), Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints), Joe Launchbury (London Wasps), Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints), Joe Marler (Harlequins), Ben Morgan (Gloucester Rugby), Matt Mullan (London Wasps), Chris Robshaw (Harlequins), Henry Thomas (Sale Sharks), Billy Vunipola (Saracens), Mako Vunipola (Saracens), Tom Wood (Northampton Saints), Tom Youngs (Leicester Tigers).
Backs: Brad Barritt (Saracens), Mike Brown (Harlequins), Luther Burrell (Northampton Saints), Danny Care (Harlequins), Lee Dickson (Northampton Saints), Owen Farrell (Saracens), George Ford (Bath Rugby), Alex Goode (Saracens), Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby), Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs), Billy Twelvetrees (Gloucester Rugby), Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby).
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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