France's Vakatawa returns from injury to start Six Nations clash against England

Virimi Vakatawa missed France's opening wins against Italy and Ireland with a knee injury. Photo By Harry Murphy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Centre Virimi Vakatawa is back in the starting line-up as France gear up for their Six Nations clash against England at Twickenham on Saturday.

Vakatawa, who missed Les Bleus's opening wins against Italy and Ireland with a knee injury, features alongside Gael Fickou while Matthieu Jalibert starts again at fly-half despite the return of Romain Ntamack from a jaw injury.

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Ntamack, who has formed a lethal half-back pair with Antoine Dupont since coach Fabien Galthie took over last year, will be on the bench.

"Matthieu has a momentum, he played the last two games with us and he performed really well," head coach Fabien Galthie told a news conference on Thursday.

"Romain is back and he has played one game with Toulouse. On current form and given the momentum, the decision is logical."

Jalibert will pair up with Dupont, one of 12 players who tested positive for COVID-19 after the Ireland game last month.

The COVID-19 outbreak prompted organisers to postpone France's game against Scotland, which was scheduled for Feb. 28.

An international investigation by the French rugby federation into the origin of the outbreak cleared players and staff of any wrongdoing even if Galthie, who tested positive for the novel coronavirus, left the training camp in February.

"We respected the protocol, which was well designed to protect us, but there is always a risk," Galthie said.

Lock Paul Willemse was named in the starting line-up despite taking part in a Top 14 game with his club Clermont against Montpellier after which one of his team mate tested positive for COVID-19.

"Paul underwent three tests and on Wednesday evening he was cleared to prepare for the game with us," team manager Raphael Ibanez said, who did not name the player who tested positive.

"It's been 16 years that we haven't won there [in the Six Nations]. It's a great challenge for this squad."

France have not won the Six Nations since 2010, the year they completed their last Grand Slam.

They have not beaten England at Twickenham in the championship since 2005.

"We are well aware of what's awaiting us against England," fullback Brice Dulin said.

"It's going to be very complicated. England have had a tricky start to the championship so they will want to react, especially against us. We know that this is a key game for us."

Galthie, who expects a big physical challenge from Eddie Jones's team, named six replacement forwards while he usually picks five.

France team:

Starting XV:

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

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