Harlequins winger Ugo Monye returns to the side in place of Paul Sackey, who is unavailable after suffering a calf injury in England's 14-13 defeat to Ireland.
Danny Care, who was sin-binned for a barge on Marcus Horan at a crucial stage in Dublin, has survived calls for his head and retains his place on the bench.
Shaw's last appearance for England was off the bench against South Africa in the autumn, when he won his 50th Test cap.
While Kennedy could be considered unfortunate to miss out, Shaw brings added ballast to England's second row against a powerful French forward unit.
Croft, who starred for Leicester against Gloucester in the Guinness Premiership last weekend, offers England an additional lineout option in the absence of Kennedy.
Gloucester loose forward Luke Narraway has dropped out of the squad altogether after earning a place on the bench against Ireland at Croke Park.
Monye, who started all four of England's autumn Tests, suffered a back injury on the eve of the Six Nations and returns to win his fifth cap in place of Sackey.
Johnson confirmed that, while Sackey has been carrying an injury, he has been dropped on form.
"He has got an injury but we wanted to make the change," said Johnson.
"We have good options there but we went with a specialist winger in Ugo.
"He has had injury problems but has come back and looked strong and sharp."
Johnson admitted Kennedy was unfortunate to lose his place in the team.
"Nick is a little bit unlucky. It is a balance with the players you want on the field," said Johnson.
"Simon Shaw and Nick are very different players. I said to Nick he has played well and not done anything wrong but it is about the balance.
"I said the same to James about Tom's inclusion. Tom gives us a lineout option and he has been playing well."
England have had training sessions with top referees Wayne Barnes and Andrew Small this week in a bid to eradicate the penalties and yellow cards that have dogged their Six Nations campaign.
On the retention of Care in the side, Johnson added: "He is an important player for us and I don't think he will do that again."
England team to play France in the RBS 6 Nations championship at Twickenham on Sunday, March 15:
D Armitage (London Irish); U Monye (Harlequins), M Tindall (Gloucester), R Flutey (Wasps), M Cueto (Sale Sharks); T Flood (Leicester), H Ellis (Leicester); A Sheridan (Sale Sharks), L Mears (Bath), P Vickery (Wasps), S Borthwick (Saracens, capt), S Shaw (Wasps), T Croft (Leicester), J Worsley (Wasps), N Easter (Harlequins).
Replacements: D Hartley (Northampton), J White (Leicester), J Haskell (Wasps), N Kennedy (London Irish), D Care (Harlequins), A Goode (Brive), M Tait (Sale Sharks).