The Sale wing, who broke the French League tryscoring record last season, has displaced Jack Nowell in a surprise selection after last week’s superb win in Ireland.
But with England scoring a try inside three minutes in each of their last four Tests, coach Eddie Jones thinks Ashton is the man to rock France early at Twickenham.
“He’s a try poacher and we’ve just got a gut feeling he’ll be right for the start of the game and Jack will be right for the end of the game,” said Jones.
“He’s a finisher. We feel that maybe early in the game, as he did against New Zealand, he can find the line for us. That could be important.
“We’ve got 23 who are going to do the business on Sunday for us. Last week was just the start; I’ve got no doubt we are going to be better this week.
“We’ve had a good look at France and what they can bring to the table but we just have to be organised in defence and have that relentless attitude to get after them.”
Ashton, 31, was working as a Six Nations TV pundit last season and he admitted yesterday he thought his chance of starting for England in the championship had gone.
“It was France vs Italy. I went with JP Pietersen to commentate on the game and thinking that was a year ago, I’d never have thought we’d be sat here with me about to play France,” said Ashton.
“I definitely understand what it’s like to not be involved and not have the shirt, so it’s a big privilege for me to be back in.”
Courtney Lawes steps up to start in place of the injured Maro itoje, who Jones claimed yesterday now has a chance of being fit to face Wales in a fortnight.
“It is unfortunate Maro is injured but he has been rehabbing well so we are hopeful he will be back earlier than maybe first predicted,” said Jones.
Mathieu Bastareaud has been recalled by France to try to counter the physical threat of Manu Tuilagi. The Toulon bowling ball will partner Geoffrey Doumayrou in the same midfield that helped beat England in Paris last year.
Butter-fingered wing Yoann Huget, who presented George North with a try on a plate in last Friday’s defeat to Wales, is moved to full-back to free up a spot out wide for Gaël Fickou.
England start as hot favourites, claiming they can push from the performance that beat Ireland last weekend.
“We don’t want to just be good at stuff. Everyone is good at stuff. We want to see where we can take it,” said captain Owen Farrell.
“We have not been hiding the fact we want to be the best team in the world.”