Watson returns to England XV for Nations Cup final against France

LONDON (AFP) – Anthony Watson has been recalled on the wing in the only change to England’s starting XV for Sunday’s Autumn Nations Cup final against France at Twickenham.

Watson replaces Jonathan Joseph after his Bath team-mate was ruled out by a calf injury suffered during last week’s 24-13 pool win over Wales in Llanelli that saw England into the final.

Otherwise, England coach Eddie Jones has kept faith with the run-on side that took the field at Parc Y Scarlets.

France are the only team to have beaten Six Nations champions England this year, winning 24-17 in Paris in February before the global rugby calendar was disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.

That was England’s first match since their 2019 World Cup final defeat by South Africa in Japan.

England’s Anthony Watson has been recalled on the wing in the only change to England’s starting XV for Sunday’s Autumn Nations Cup final against France at Twickenham. PHOTO: AFP

But this weekend they will be up against a depleted France.

The French are fielding a weakened team following an agreement struck with the country’s Top 14 clubs limiting the amount of international appearances players can make in the revised end-of-year Test schedule. “We’re really looking forward to this final, playing France and having another chance to win a trophy this autumn,” Jones said after naming his side on Thursday.

The Autumn Nations Cup only came about after traditional southern hemisphere giants South Africa, New Zealand and Australia abandoned their planned tours of Europe in the face of Covid-19.

“We’d like to congratulate the tournament organisers on putting this on in difficult circumstances,” said Jones. “Over the past two months the players have put in real effort, worked very hard on and off the pitch and have met the protocols and new ways of working.”

Fans will return to Twickenham on Sunday for the first time since the pandemic, with some 2,000 tickets having gone on sale.

“This has been another positive learning week with tough, hard training and we’re looking forward to getting on the pitch in front of our fans and playing a good game of rugby,” veteran Australian coach Jones added.