Sale Sharks wing Chris Ashton, who has scored seven tries in the European Rugby Challenge Cup this season, will make his first Six Nations start since 2013 on Sunday, when England host France at Twickenham.
He is one of two Challenge Cup players to be handed starts after featuring as second-half replacements in the 33-20 win over Ireland in Dublin last weekend. The other is Northampton Saints lock Courtney Lawes.
Ashton – who remains the European Cup’s all-time top try-scorer – has scored his seven in the Challenge Cup this season in just five games to help Sale win Pool 3 and earn a home quarter-final with Connacht Rugby at the AJ Bell Stadium on March 29, live on BT Sport.
— Northampton Saints 😇 (@SaintsRugby) February 8, 2019
Meanwhile, Lawes has featured for Northampton in Challenge Cup matches against Dragons and ASM Clermont Auvergne as Saints clinched a best runners-up spot. They will travel to face Clermont for a third time in the last eight on March 31, live on BT Sport.
Speaking at today’s press conference, England head coach Eddie Jones highlighted the impact he hopes the 31-year-old Ashton will have in the early stages on Sunday.
“We have gone for Chris Ashton on the wing; we think he might sneak us a try early in the game,” Jones said.
— Stade Rochelais (@staderochelais) February 8, 2019
La Rochelle centre Geoffrey Doumayrou will start for France after head coach Jacques Brunel made six changes to the side who lost to Wales last week.
The 29-year-old, who was a second-half substitute in Paris, has helped La Rochelle reach the quarter-finals of the European Rugby Challenge Cup, playing three times as they topped Pool 4.
La Rochelle will resume rivalries with Pool 4 runners-up Bristol Bears in the last eight, as they meet for the third time this season on March 31 at Stade Marcel Deflandre, live on BT Sport.