Fabien Galthie will have to make a few changes to his side that beat Ireland in round two of the Six Nations.
Due to a covid outbreak in the French camp, the clash against Scotland in round three of the Six Nations was postponed and since the make up of Galthie's side has changed for the better and worse as he prepares his charges for a visit to Twickenham.
The break has seen the return of both Virimi Vakatawa and Romain Ntamack, two players who were regulars in France's starting XV last year. Loosehead prop Jean-Baptiste Gros has also returned to the squad after missing the second game while Camille Chat and Julian Marchand are fit again with the former missing the first two rounds and the latter recovering from COVID.
It hasn't all been good news on the injury front with Demba Bamba fighting his way back to fitness after a hamstring injury on his left leg but has since injured the right one and will be out of action for a month. Bernard Le Roux suffered an injury in Racing 92's 21-25 loss to Toulon and in the same game, Gabin Villiere suffered a hand injury that has ruled him out of the remainder the Six Nations.
The news doesn't get much better from there with both second-rower Paul Willemse and fullback Anthony Bouthier in doubt after they featured in Montpellier's win over Clermont on Friday, with a positive COVID result coming out of the Clermont camp since.
Taking all of this into account, we have a look at how France could line up against Eddie Jones' charges.
Front row: Cyril Baille, Julian Marchand, Mohamed Haouas
Despite the disruptions in the squad, the front row could remain unchanged for the third consecutive game. Cyril Baille looks to have cemented his starting place in the #1 jersey, a role that has been nailed down since Jefferson Poirot retired from test rugby, especially considering he went the full 80 against Ireland in France's last round.
Marchand is quickly becoming of the premier hookers in test rugby while Mohamed Haouas looks a far more steady presence on the tighthead side since his red card against Scotland last year.
On the bench, Pierre Bourgarit looks certain to make way for Camille Chat despite his fine form for France while Gros and Aldegheri return as cover for loosehead and tighthead respectively.
On the bench: Camille Chat, Jean-Baptiste Gros and Dorian Aldegheri
Second Row: Romain Taofifenua and Paul Willemse/Cyril Cazeaux
Bernard Le Roux's absence will certainly be felt on defence for France and Galthie could be forced to make two changes in the locks if Willemse is not cleared to play.
Taofifenua has been used off the bench so far in the competition and is the likeliest replacement for Le Roux while Bordeaux's Cyril Cazeaux would partner him if Willemse is unable to feature against England.
Back Row: Anthony Jelonch, Charles Ollivon, Gregory Alldritt
Ireland did manage to disrupt the French lineout in round two of the Championship which may prompt Galthie to reinstate Dylan Cretin in the #6 jersey. With Le Roux out, however, Jelonch may well be tasked to fill that role on defence that Le Roux was so effective in. Jelonch also effective at the set piece and having broken into the starting XV, it's probable that he will retain the #6 jumper.
Charles Ollivon will captain the side having recovered from COVID with Gregory Alldritt continuing his stronghold on the #8 jersey.
Halfbacks: Antoine Dupont and Matthieu Jalibert
Romain Ntamack may his return from injury for Toulouse in their clash against Brive over the weekend and while the playmaker did look sharp, Jalibert looks set to hold onto the starting pivot role for one more week, at least.
Jalibert was deployed at fullback for Bordeaux and shone in the role but his form for Les Bleus has hardly warranted a demotion. With Ntamack returning via the bench, it provides a ton cover across the backline.
Centres: Gael Fickou and Virimi Vakatawa
With a game under his belt with Racing 92, Vakatawa looks set to return straight into the starting XV for France. The return of Vkaatawa is timely especially considering the fact that the in form Arthur Vincent is unavailable for the clash against England.
Racing 92 fans will be watching the clash at Twickenham closely with reports suggesting that Fickou could well join the Parisian club next season.
Outside Backs: Damian Penaud, Brice Dulin, Teddy Thomas
Damian Penaud and Teddy Thomas look to be battling it out for the spot on the right wing but the pair could well feature in the same starting XV this weekend. The two players are in excellent form for both club and country and look set to form a threating back three along with Brice Dulin.
Predicted 23 v England
- Cyril Baille
- Julian Marchand
- Mohamed Haouas
- Romain Taofifenua
- Paul Willemse/Cyril Cazeaux
- Anthony Jelonch
- Charles Ollivon
- Gregory Alldritt
- Antoine Dupont
- Mathieu Jalibert
- Damian Penaud
- Arthur Vincent
- Virimi Vakatawa
- Teddy Thomas
- Brice Dulin
Replacements: Camille Chat, Jean-Baptiste Gros, Dorian Aldegheri,Cyril Cazeaux/Swan Rebbadj, Dylan Cretin, Baptiste Serin, Romain Ntamack, Yoram Moefana.