Six Nations 2021: Malins handed first England start, Vakatawa returns for Le Crunch

By Sports Desk March 11, 2021

Max Malins will make his first Test start and Virimi Vakatawa returns to the France side for Saturday's mouthwatering Six Nations showdown at Twickenham.

Malins gets the nod at full-back, with Elliot Daly dropping to the bench in three changes made to the side by Eddie Jones.

Hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie is preferred to Jamie George, while Charlie Ewels takes Jonny Hill's place in the second row in an England side that will not be retaining their title after a defeat to Wales last time out.

Anthony Watson will win his 50th Test cap as the defending champions attempt to strike a blow to France's bid to claim the title with a victory in Le Crunch.

France return to action a month after they made it two wins out of two with a defeat of Ireland in Dublin, with their clash against Scotland postponed due to a coronavirus outbreak in the camp.

Head coach Fabien Galthie, who was among those to test positive for COVID-19, has named fit-again centre Vakatawa in midfield alongside Gael Fickou, with Arthur Vincent unavailable.

Teddy Thomas returns on the wing in place of the injured Gabin Villier, while Romain Taofifenua comes into the team after Bernard Le Roux was ruled out.

Dylan Cretin is preferred to Anthony Jelonch in the back row as the fit-again Romain Ntamack has to settle for a place on the bench when France go in search of a first win at Twickehham since 2007.

 

England: Max Malins, Anthony Watson, Henry Slade, Owen Farrell, Jonny May, George Ford, Ben Youngs; Mako Vunipola, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, Charlie Ewels, Mark Wilson, Tom Curry, Billy Vunipola.

Replacements: Jamie George, Ellis Genge, Will Stuart, Jonny Hill, Ben Earl, Dan Robson, Ollie Lawrence, Elliot Daly

 

France: Brice Dulin, Teddy Thomas, Virimi Vakatawa, Gael Fickou, Damian Penaud, Matthieu Jalibert, Antoine Dupont; Cyril Baille, Julien Marchand, Mohamed Haouas, Romain Taofifenua, Paul Willemse, Dylan Cretin, Charles Ollivon, Gregory Alldritt.

Replacements: Camille Chat, Jean-Baptiste Gros, Dorian Aldegheri, Cyril Cazeaux, Cameron Woki, Anthony Jelonch, Baptiste Serin, Romain Ntamack.

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    England all-rounder Ben Stokes has withdrawn from the Test squad to face India in order to prioritise his mental wellbeing and to rest his injured finger.

    The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) on Friday revealed Stokes has decided to take an indefinite break from all cricket with immediate effect.

    Stokes has been captaining the Northern Superchargers in the inaugural Hundred competition but he will not be in the England side to face India when a five-match series starts next week.

    Craig Overton will replace the vice-captain in the squad to take on Virat Kohli's side.

    Managing director of England men's Cricket Ashley Giles, said: "Ben has shown tremendous courage to open up about his feelings and wellbeing.
     
    "Our primary focus has always been and will continue to be the mental health and welfare of all of our people. The demands on our athletes to prepare and play elite sport are relentless in a typical environment, but the ongoing pandemic has acutely compounded this.

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  • Springboks must take frustration out on Lions to keep series alive Springboks must take frustration out on Lions to keep series alive

    South Africa must take their frustration over officiating out on the British and Irish Lions when then they attempt to keep the series alive on Saturday.

    The Lions roared back in the second half of an attritional first Test at Cape Town Stadium last weekend to take a 1-0 lead with a 22-17 victory.

    South Africa director of rugby Rassie Erasmus has had a busy week since the world champions' seven-match winning run came to an end.

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    The 48-year-old fanned the flames further on Thursday, offering to "step away" in an hour-long video in which he stated the Springboks should be given an "equal chance" by officials in the remainder of series.

    It was the turn of assistant coach Mzwandile Stick to have his say on Friday, accusing the Lions of “destroying the dignity of the series" by starting the war of words prior to the first Test.

    Siya Kolisi then backed up Erasmus' claim that the Springboks captain felt disrespected by referee Nic Berry, who might be glad it will be New Zealander Ben O'Keeffe on duty this weekend.

    The Lions have taken a different approach as they look to stretch their run of series without defeat to three for the first time since 1959, giving their backing to O'Keeffe.

    Full-back Stuart Hogg said: "In the short time I've been Scotland captain Ben O'Keeffe has been one of the best referees I've had to deal with.

    "He almost coaches you round the field at the same time. When we ask questions he's very calm in his answers and is good at communicating.

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    South Africa have handed number eight Jasper Wiese his first Test start as one of three changes, with prop Steven Kitshoff steps in to win his 50th cap alongside the returning Frans Malherbe.

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    KOLISI: TIME TO STAND UP

    While the hurting Springboks were quick to point the finger at the officials, skipper Kolisi knows they must improve after squandering a lead in the first Test.

    "Of course, we feel a lot of pressure, but we must focus on what we can control and fix the mistakes we made," said Kolisi.

    "We responded well this week and trained well, and we are looking forward to the match. We know we have to stand up in times like these."

    He added: "There are some similarities to losing against New Zealand in our opening game in the World Cup, but this is different because this tournament is only played every 12 years, while the World Cup is played every four years, so we may not have another opportunity.

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    LIONS PREPARED FOR BOKS BACKLASH

    Robin McBryde has been looking back as well as forward as the Lions prepare for another almighty battle, reading up on the 1974 tour of South Africa.

    The Lions secured a 3-0 whitewash 47 years ago, but they did not go down without a huge fight and forwards coach McBryde knows it will be no different this time around. 

    "They will go back to their physical nature. It’s what they did in 1974 after losing that first Test," he said.

    "There's a term they have which means climbing in, to get stuck in. I'm sure that’s what they'll be looking to do on Saturday – to get stuck into us.

    "They're a very proud nation who will be looking to come out with all guns blazing."

     

    South Africa : Willie le Roux, Cheslin Kolbe, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Makazole Mapimpi, Handre Pollard, Faf de Klerk; Steven Kitshoff, Bongi Mbonambi, Frans Malherbe, Eben Etzebeth, Franco Mostert, Siya Kolisi (captain), Pieter-Steph du Toit, Jasper Wiese.

    Replacements : Malcolm Marx, Trevor Nyakane, Vincent Koch, Lood de Jager, Marco van Staden, Kwagga Smith, Herschel Jantjies, Damian Willemse.

    British and Irish Lions : Stuart Hogg, Anthony Watson, Chris Harris, Robbie Henshaw, Duhan van der Merwe, Dan Biggar, Conor Murray; Mako Vunipola, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Tadhg Furlong, Maro Itoje, Alun Wyn Jones (captain), Courtney Lawes, Tom Curry, Jack Conan.

    Replacements : Ken Owens, Rory Sutherland, Kyle Sinckler, Tadhg Beirne, Taulupe Faletau, Ali Price, Owen Farrell, Elliot Daly.

     

    KEY OPTA FACTS

    - The Lions have lost just two of their previous 13 games in Cape Town (W10, D1), a run that stretches back to the beginning of the 1974 tour.
    - South Africa conceded 14 penalties against the Lions in the first Test, including nine inside their own half of the pitch; both tallies were their most in a Test since June 2018 against England.
    - The Lions are unbeaten in their three Tests (W2, D1), their best run since a six game spell spanning the 1971 and 1974 tours (W4, D2).
    - The tourists have lost just two series after winning the first Test (W10, D1) – against New Zealand in 1930 and Australia in 2001. They won four and drew one of their five such series against South Africa.

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    Wilson was the top scorer with 20 points, while she also contributed 10 rebounds and three assists. Support arrived from Breanna Stewart (15 points) and Brittney Griner (15 points).

    It was by no means a comfortable victory, however, having edged out Nigeria 81-72 in their first match.

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    "Taking a breath. We've played a little fast in other games so just trying to get a rhythm for us, take it slow and play our basketball."

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    However, with 0.6 seconds left, Li Yueru was fouled under the basket. She made both free throws to seal victory and progression into the quarters.

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    "This is necessary against Nigeria because they fight a lot. After we did this very good job, we tried to make the biggest gap possible, so 25 points was a good result for us."

    There were no excuses for Nigeria coach Otis Hughley Jr, who said: "We just got beaten really bad. Offensively we were flat and we couldn't score. You can't play that way against the number five team in the world."

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