Ashton axed from England squad

Chris Ashton has been dropped from the England squad for Saturday's Six Nations opener against France.

Saracens wing Ashton has paid the price for some poor performances during the autumn internationals, with Stuart Lancaster instead opting for Gloucester's Jonny May and uncapped wings Jack Nowell and Anthony Watson.

British and Irish Lions scrum-half Ben Youngs has also been axed by Lancaster, who has chosen the in-form duo of Lee Dickson and Danny Care.

As well as Nowell and Watson, Northampton centre Luther Burrell and Bath fly-half George Ford could make their debuts in the Stade de France after being included in the 26-man squad.

England head coach Lancaster said: "We are excited about the players we are taking to Paris and what a great place to open our Six Nations campaign against a French team who will be massively motivated, especially after the last two games between us.

"Competition for places is intense and we have tough selection choices to make across the team. The young players have really impressed and based on their club form and what they have done in training with us they deserve their opportunity.

"Competition at scrum-half has been particularly tight and Danny Care's form leading into the Six Nations has been excellent and he merits his inclusion.

"Ben Youngs misses out this time but he is a quality player and I am sure he will respond in the same way Danny did at the start of the year.

"We have been pleased with the form of Chris Ashton recently. However, Jack Nowell has made great progress on the right wing and has also delivered in big games for Exeter Chiefs and we feel it is the right time to look at another option in that position.

"Chris remains an important member of the squad and I am sure he will be working hard to regain that position during the course of the Six Nations."

Bath's Kyle Eastmond will join the England Saxons squad for Friday's meeting with Scotland A in Scoutstoun.

Forwards: David Attwood (Bath), Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers), Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints), Joe Launchbury (London Wasps), Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints), Joe Marler (Harlequins), Ben Morgan (Gloucester), Matt Mullan (London Wasps), Chris Robshaw (Harlequins), Henry Thomas (Sale Sharks), Billy Vunipola (Saracens), Mako Vunipola (Saracens), Tom Wood (Northampton Saints), Tom Youngs (Leicester Tigers).

Backs: Brad Barritt (Saracens), Mike Brown (Harlequins), Luther Burrell (Northampton Saints), Danny Care (Harlequins), Lee Dickson (Northampton Saints), Owen Farrell (Saracens), George Ford (Bath), Alex Goode (Saracens), Jonny May (Gloucester), Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs), Billy Twelvetrees (Gloucester), Anthony Watson (Bath).