Lawes will line up at blindside flanker tomorrow as one of three changes made by head coach Stuart Lancaster, all of which signal England’s abrasive intent to tackle the French head-on.
Dylan Hartley has replaced Tom Youngs at hooker and Manu Tuilagi returns at outside centre, where he will start opposite Mathieu Bastareaud in a seismic midfield showdown.
Lawes has been an effective high-impact replacement for England so far this RBS 6 Nations. Now he is ready to set the tone from the outset at Twickenham.
“That is so important. It’s one of the main reasons I’ve been put in the team, to bring that physicality because the French are going to bring it as well,” Lawes said. “You can see from their pack and centres they want to try and bully us.
“It’s really important we put a stop to that as soon as possible.”
Meanwhile, Richard Hibbard will notch up a career-first in Rome tomorrow — more than six years after making his Wales debut.
Ospreys hooker Hibbard first featured on the international scene as a 22-year-old but it has taken him until this week to be selected in the starting line-up for two successive Tests.
“It has been a long road, not very smooth,” he said.
The Italians will be led onto the field tomorrow by Leicester prop Martin Castrogiovanni, who captains the side in the absence of the suspended Sergio Parisse.
ITALY (v Wales): A Masi (Wasps); G Venditti (Zebre), T Benvenuti (Treviso), G Canale (La Rochelle), L McLean (Treviso); K Burton (do.), E Gori (do.); A Lo Cicero (Racing Metro), L Ghiraldini (Treviso), M Castrogiovanni (Leicester, capt), A Pavanello (Treviso), F Minto (do.), A Zanni (do.), S Favaro (do.), M Vosawai (do.).
Replacements: D Giazzon (Zebre), A De Marchi (Treviso), L Cittadini (do.), Q Geldenhuys (Zebre), P Derbyshire (Treviso), T Botes (do.), L Orquera (Zebre), G Garcia (do.).
WALES: L Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues); A Cuthbert (do.), J Davies (Scarlets), J Roberts (Cardiff Blues), G North (Scarlets); D Biggar (Ospreys), M Phillips (Bayonne); G Jenkins (Toulon), R Hibbard (Ospreys), A Jones (do.), A Coombs (Newport Gwent Dragons), I Evans (Ospreys), R Jones (do., capt), J Tipuric (do.), T Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons).
Replacements: K Owens (Scarlets), P James (Bath), C Mitchell (Exeter), A-W Jones (Ospreys), S Warburton (Cardiff Blues), L Williams (do.), J Hook (Perpignan), S Williams (Scarlets).
Referee: Romain Poite (France).
ENGLAND (v France): A Goode (Saracens); C Ashton (do.), M Tuilagi (Leicester), B Barritt (Saracens), M Brown (Harlequins); O Farrell (Saracens), B Youngs (Leicester); J Marler (Harlequins), D Hartley (Northampton), D Cole (Leicester), J Launchbury (Wasps), G Parling (Leicester), C Lawes (Northampton), C Robshaw (Harlequins, capt), T Wood (Northampton).
Replacements: T Youngs (Leicester), D Wilson (Bath), M Vunipola (Saracens), J Haskell (Wasps), T Waldrom (Leicester), D Care (Harlequins), T Flood (Leicester), B Twelvetrees (Gloucester).
FRANCE: Y Huget (Toulouse); V Clerc (Toulouse), M Bastareaud (Toulon), W Fofana (Clermont Auvergne), B Fall (Racing Metro); F Trinh-Duc (Montpellier), M Parra (Clermont Auvergne); T Domingo (do.), B Kayser (do.), N Mas (Perpignan), C Samson (Castres),Y Maestri (Toulouse), Y Nyanga (do.), T Dusautoir (do., capt), L Picamoles (do.).
Replacements: D Szarzewski (Racing Metro), V Debaty (Clermont Auvergne), L Ducalon (Castres), J Suta (Toulon), A Claassen (Castres), M Machenaud (Racing Metro), F Michalak (Toulon), F Fritz (Toulouse).
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa).