England captain Courtney Lawes was left with contrasting emotions as his side succumbed to a 25-13 loss to France, who secured a long-awaited Six Nations title and Grand Slam on Saturday.

Marcus Smith's eight points from the boot and a second-half try from Freddie Steward kept England in contention, but Antoine Dupont slipped over on the hour to claim victory at the Parc des Princes.

That condemned Eddie Jones' side to three losses in the tournament for a third time under the Australian, having done so just twice in 16 editions before his appointment.

As France lifted their first Six Nations title since 2010 and sixth overall, Lawes could only hail the efforts of his team despite acknowledging the frustrations of losing out again.

"We're pretty disappointed to be honest," Lawes told ITV after the game. "We certainly had them in fitness – we felt like they were getting tired and we just failed to capitalise.

"It's on us and we've got a lot to learn from obviously. But I'm proud of the boys' effort still.

"It's hard to say straight after the game but we'll go back and iron out any kinks. It is what it is and we'd have obviously have loved to go out and get the win.

"I really thought we were going to do it at a few stages in the game but we didn't capitalise well enough.

"We really believed we could spoil the party – and I know we were capable of it because we've got the team for it. We just need to be more clinical, execute better and we can't let them off the hook that many times.

"They got so many turnovers at the breakdown and we didn't deliver there."

England ended up settling for third-place in the 2022 edition, having lost to Scotland, Ireland and France and defeating Italy and Wales.

Meanwhile, France will be eyeing World Cup glory on home turf next year after managing their fourth Grand Slam, with only Wales recording as many in the championship.

Manu Tuilagi and captain Courtney Lawes will make their returns from injury in England's Six Nations showdown with Wales at Twickenham, while forward Taulupe Faletau will make his first appearance since last year's competition for the visitors on Saturday.

Both sides have posted a win and a loss in their two games so far to trail early leaders France in the table.

England bounced back from a 20-17 loss to Scotland by thrashing Italy 33-0 last time out, while Wales beat Scotland 20-17 after opening their title defence with a 29-7 defeat in Ireland.

Lawes returns from a concussion-enforced layoff which has kept him out of action since January, and regains the captaincy he held against South Africa last Autumn, replacing stand-in Tom Curry in the role.

Tuilagi also makes a welcome return from injury, but Ben Youngs will have to wait to win a record 115th cap after being named on the bench, as Eddie Jones makes four changes to the team which impressed in Rome, with Luke Cowan-Dickie and Kyle Sinckler also coming in.

Looking ahead to the match, Jones told England Rugby that he was content with his side's preparation, and was excited ahead of the showdown.

"We've prepared very well for this game, the squad have really come together on and off the pitch," said Jones. 

"Wales are a good, tough side and Six Nations champions, and it will make for an exciting Test match in front of a full Twickenham crowd.

"We've got a talented, young, hungry squad who have trained with real intensity this week. We're ready to go at them and can't wait to play in front of our supporters again."

Courtney Lawes and Manu Tuilagi could make a welcome return for England in their Six Nations showdown with Wales at Twickenham.

Lawes may have been installed as England skipper for the tournament if he had not been sidelined due to concussion.

The towering lock missed the loss to Scotland and a win over Italy, but head coach Eddie Jones is hopeful he can face defending champions Wales a week on Saturday.

Centre Tuilagi could also be unleashed on Wayne Pivac's side, having been back in action for Sale Sharks after recovering from a hamstring injury.

Lock Joe Launchbury (knee) and flanker Lewis Ludlam (ribs) could also be back in contention. 

"Potentially we'll have Launchbury, Tuilagi, Lawes and Ludlam," Jones said.

Tom Curry has captained England in the absence of the injured Owen Farrell and Lawes.

But Lawes could have the honour of leading the Red Rose out once again in a battle between two sides who have won one and lost one of their matches heading into a weekend off.

The Australian added: "We'd be hopeful that by the end of next week Courtney will be training fully.

"He's making some great progress and the medical staff have done some terrific work with him. He's not far away now and we're really hopeful he'll be back in full training and able to play against Wales."

Jones said of Tuilagi: "Just having a power running centre would give us a different option.

"Everything we're doing now is about trying to create opportunities through finesse and that's through good running lines and passing.

"But to have someone who can take you forward quickly and engage two or three defenders then allows you to try and finesse extra space, which would be really useful to us.

"We've had three centres play and I think Sladey [Henry Slade] has been very good. Joe Marchant and Elliot Daly have had their moments, but we need to get more out of that and we understand that."

Rookie duo Bevan Rodd and Jamie Blamire will start in the front row for England when they face world champions South Africa on Saturday.

Blamire, who has scored four tries in five games for his country, gets his chance from the start with Jamie George ruled out due to a knee injury and prop Rodd comes into the team alongside Kyle Sinckler.

Flanker Courtney Lawes captains the Red Rose for the second time in the absence of Owen Farrell, who suffered an ankle injury in the win over Australia last weekend.

Hooker Nic Dolly could make his debut off the bench as Eddie Jones' side go in search of revenge for the 2019 World Cup final defeat.

Joe Marchant gets the nod to start on the right wing, with Manu Tuilagi moving to inside centre.

Prop Joe Marler is among the replacements, having missed the defeat of the 32-16 of the Wallabies after testing positive for coronavirus.

England have not lost to the Springboks at Twickenham since 2014, when they were edged out 31-18.

 

England team: Freddie Steward, Joe Marchant, Henry Slade, Manu Tuilagi, Jonny May, Marcus Smith, Ben Youngs; Bevan Rodd, Jamie Blamire, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, Jonny Hill, Courtney Lawes (captain), Sam Underhill, Tom Curry.

Replacements: Nic Dolly, Joe Marler, Will Stuart, Charlie Ewels, Sam Simmonds, Alex Dombrandt, Raffi Quirke, Max Malins.

Eddie Jones challenged his ruthless England side to become the best team on the planet after they brushed aside Tonga at Twickenham.

England ran in 11 tries as they thumped the Pacific islanders by 69-3 despite the absence of captain Owen Farrell who missed the Test after a positive Covid-19 test.

Jamie George, Jonny May and Ben Youngs claimed two tries apiece while Adam Radwan, Maro Itoje, Marcus Smith, Jamie Blamire and Alex Mitchell also crossed the line.

Tonga played the final 10 minutes a man down after replacement Viliami Fine was shown a red following an elbow to Smith's head.

England have now won 16 of their last 17 Autumn Internationals (excluding the Rugby World Cup and warm-ups), a run dating back to 2014, with New Zealand (2018) the only side to beat them in that time.

Head coach Jones acknowledged there will be much sterner opponents to come – starting with Australia next weekend – but urged his England players to target the summit of world rugby.

"It is a project, we are two years from the World Cup and by the time we get to the World Cup we want to be the best team in the world," he told Amazon Prime.

"It is not what you see, it is how much we improve: this week, and then onto next week and the week after.

"We can only play against the opposition that show. I think we left four tries out there, but I liked the attitude in the second half. 

"In a game like that the crowd can go off for more pints and do a Mexican wave, we managed to keep the energy up and stopped it [the wave] about halfway round the stadium today."

England will face the Wallabies before they round off the Autumn Internationals against world champions South Africa.

Courtney Lawes captained the side in place of Farrell and the forward claimed his team-mates are already as good as any side in the world on their day – although there are still aspects to their game to improve on.

He added: "There is a little bit to work on but it is great to be back with the fans. It was nice to get a few points at the end at bring some entertainment.

"It is going to be a great game [against Australia] I believe we can go toe to toe with anyone, we have a bit to learn but I am looking forward very much to next week."

George North will become the youngest player in world rugby to reach 100 caps after being named in Wales' starting line-up for Saturday's Six Nations showdown with England.

The 28-year-old, who won his first cap in November 2010, returns to the side at outside centre as one of five changes from the 25-24 win over Scotland on February 13.

Wing Josh Adams is back from suspension while Josh Navidi, Jonathan Davies and scrum-half Kieran Hardy are also included in the XV, the latter making his first Six Nations start.

Wales have won their opening two games in this year's tournament and are three points ahead of England, who beat Italy 41-18 last time out after losing to Scotland in their opener.

Eddie Jones makes two changes to the England line-up, with hooker Jamie George and flanker Mark Wilson replacing Luke Cowan-Dickie and the injured Courtney Lawes respectively.

Elliot Daly retains his place and is set to win his 50th cap for England, who have named the uncapped George Martin among their replacements for the Principality Stadium clash. 

"We know we'll be up against a strong Welsh challenge on Saturday, but we've worked really hard in training this week and have got a very good team to face it," Jones said.

"We want to show people what we are capable of, keep building our performances and show the best is yet to come from this England team."

 

Wales XV: Liam Williams; Louis Rees-Zammit, George North, Jonathan Davies, Josh Adams; Dan Biggar, Kieran Hardy; Wyn Jones, Ken Owens, Tomas Francis, Adam Beard, Alun Wyn Jones, Josh Navidi, Justin Tipuric, Taulupe Faletau.

Replacements: Elliot Dee, Rhodri Jones, Leon Brown, Cory Hill, James Botham, Gareth Davies, Callum Sheedy, Uilisi Halaholo.

England XV: Elliot Daly, Anthony Watson, Henry Slade, Owen Farrell, Jonny May, George Ford, Ben Youngs; Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, Jonny Hill, Mark Wilson, Tom Curry, Billy Vunipola.

Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Ellis Genge, Will Stuart, Charlie Ewels, George Martin, Ben Earl, Dan Robson, Max Malins.

England head coach Eddie Jones has named a new-look front row and recalled George Ford for the Six Nations game against Italy on Saturday.

The reigning champions went down 11-6 to Scotland on the opening weekend of the 2021 tournament, their first defeat to their Calcutta Cup rivals at Twickenham in 38 years. 

As he looks for a response following that setback, Jones has selected Ford at fly-half in his starting XV, meaning captain Owen Farrell switches to inside centre for the clash with the Azzurri. 

In the pack, the fit-again Mako Vunipola comes in to play opposite fellow prop Kyle Sinckler, while Luke Cowan-Dickie gets the nod at hooker ahead of Jamie George, who is on the bench. 

Courtney Lawes also gets a start at flanker, joining Tom Curry and Billy Vunipola in the back row.  

Ollie Lawrence – who was handed his first Six Nations start against Scotland – is absent from the 23-man squad entirely, with Henry Slade picked to play next to Farrell in midfield.  

"As always, we've picked what we think is our strongest 23 to try and win the game," Jones said.

"We're pleased to have Mako and Kyle back into the team and we've made some changes to our starting XV, but our finishers are just as important to our gameplan. We look at the whole 80 minutes.  

"We've trained very well this week, I've been very pleased with the players' attitudes and work-rate. We're hoping to put on a good performance on Saturday and kick on with our Six Nations campaign." 


England team to face Italy at Twickenham:

Elliot Daly, Anthony Watson, Henry Slade, Owen Farrell (captain), Jonny May, George Ford, Ben Youngs; Mako Vunipola, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, Jonny Hill, Courtney Lawes, Tom Curry, Billy Vunipola

Replacements: Jamie George, Ellis Genge, Will Stuart, Charlie Ewels, Ben Earl, Jack Willi, Dan Robson, Max Malins.

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