England's starting XV to face France this Saturday contains no less than 13 changes to the one that delivered the most magnificent finale to the 2015 RBS 6 Nations competition. This statistic is not set to alarm anyone instead it should be encouraging for it once again highlights the depth of talent housed at the top level of English rugby.
The side selected is one that is designed to provide opportunities, opportunities for players to deliver and opportunities for the questions that England's coaches have to be answered. On announcing the squad Stuart Lancaster articulated three clear objectives for this Saturday's Crunch;
"The primary objective is to win. Second is to see where we're at in terms of our preparations because we've done a lot of work physically and on the rugby field, so it will be good to see where we're at. The third and most important is to narrow down the selection decisions."
There are decisions aplenty for Lancaster and his coaching team with many of those taking to the field knowing that this might be their only shot to shine. Of course the spotlight is shining a little brighter on the man that will don the 12 jersey and run out for his very first International match at Twickenham Stadium; Sam Burgess. This match is the time for Stuart Lancaster to see if Burgess can translate what he has shown in training against solid opposition. The French will take no prisoners and it is safe to say that we all are tremendously intrigued as to how the match will pan out for Burgess. Will he assert himself physically and use his ball carrying ability to great effect on the largest of stages? Only time will tell.
England's bench is a strong one and will be fully utilised on Saturday afternoon, in this match Lancaster confirmed that the strategy regarding replacements will be different to normal because the key objective is to provide opportunities for individuals to deliver. Tom Wood will skipper the side as he did so out in Argentina and the focus for all remains simple; playing with positive intent and delivering a high tempo game.
It is clear that whilst the personnel are different this England side are striving to press on from their last Crunch. Throughout the squad individuals have so much to prove, some are coming back from long term injury, others are running out for the first time and at the end of the day they all have their World Cup dreams at stake. This is the start of the journey for the twenty three selected and with a French side that Lancaster has called 'a very strong one' set to arrive at Twickenham Stadium there will be nothing friendly about this Rugby World Cup Warm Up fixture.
England Rugby; 15 Alex Goode 14 Anthony Watson 13 Henry Slade 12 Sam Burgess 11 Jonny May 10 Owen Farrell 9 Richard Wigglesworth 1 Mako Vunipola 2 Rob Webber 3 Kieran Brookes 4 George Kruis 5 Geoff Parling 6 Tom Wood (C) 7 Calum Clark 8 Ben Morgan 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie 17 Alex Corbisiero 18 David Wilson 19 Dave Attwood 20 James Haskell 21 Danny Care 22 Danny Cipriani 23 Billy TwelvetreesSuggest a correction