Tuilagi’s inclusion at the expense of Billy Twelvetrees, who drops to the bench, is one of three changes made by Lancaster ahead of the visit of les Bleus to Twickenham on Saturday.
The 21-year-old missed England’s victorious RBS 6 Nations opener with Scotland through injury before returning to feature off the bench in the 12-6 defeat of Ireland.
He has now been handed his first start of this year’s Championship with Courtney Lawes and Dylan Hartley joining him in featuring from the off against France.
Lawes replaces James Haskell at No.6 while Hartley comes in for Tom Youngs with Lancaster adamant Tuilagi’s strengths will be called upon at Twickenham.
The last Test Tuilagi started was the 38-21 victory over New Zealand, in which he scored, in December and Lancaster is relishing have him alongside Brad Barritt in the centre again.
“There are three key components to this game. One is the set-piece, one is winning the gainline battle and one is how the game unfolds in the second half. particularly in the last 20 minutes,” said Lancaster.
“I think Manu gives us a good gainline option either through him or using him as a decoy as you have got Brad obviously. And as we saw against New Zealand they work well together, particularly in attack but also defensively.
“Dylan has been patient and sometimes when you make selections there are players sat on the sidelines wanting to prove a point and when you trust them it is about getting the right time to put them in.
“Dylan is one of our most experienced players. He is a bigger, heavier man than Tom and in terms of the set-piece there is solidity there. I think also part of the equation is Tom’s dynamic impact which I’m sure he will make in the second half.”