Still, it was a surprise move from Brunel to omit him entirely after he captained the side when hooker Guilhem Guiardo was injured during last year's tournament.
Schmidt admitted Ireland were outmuscled in the same way as during their last home defeat, the 21-9 loss to New Zealand in November 2016.
Ntamack - the youngest player on any of this year's Six Nations squads - will be paired with Wesley Fofana, while South Africa-born lock Paul Willemse also will make his debut in Paris.
Joe Schmidt's men have won 18 of their last 19 games.
"That's the best England performance I've been involved in, I'm just pleased to play my role and pleased for the boys", said the 28-year-old.
While rapid line speed, a dominant set-piece and a ruthless approach at the breakdown continue to lay the foundations, Schmidt's side has plenty of X-factor to hurt any opponent.
But flanker Yacouba Camara, France's stand-out player in last season's Six Nations, has been out injured and is not in the match-day 23, his place going to La Rochelle's uncapped Gregory Alldritt, capable of playing centre or on the flank.
Losing second-rows Iain Henderson and Tadhg Beirne for the start of the campaign is a blow, but James Ryan and Devin Toner are a formidable pairing.
The 2003 World Cup victor then doled out some home truths to Italy and Wales before saying France could surprise a few people in the championship. He feels Joe Schmidt hold the reins too tightly and that this team is actually capable of a lot more in attack. The backs feature three players from Toulouse and four from Clermont.
"We knew exactly how we wanted to play and we executed it perfectly".
Wales would go on to finish second in the Six Nations reckoning in 2018, whereas France accumulated just two wins as their inconsistent offering on the worldwide stage continued to plague their progress in the rankings.
"We just wanted to create space and kicking is one way to do that and we managed to do it, the execution and chasing was very good". England are a big team and they bettered us physically.
This year's Six Nations launch raised questions over why Ireland have not met England first up since 2000 and Scotland haven't had Italy to open with since 2001, but even Gatland had no answer to that.
Head coach Rowland Phillips is also monitoring the progress of full-back Bethan Davies and prop Gwenllian Pyrs who were involved in a vehicle accident on the way to training three weeks before the start of the tournament.
"It was great that he scored two tries, but I'm more disappointed with France's second try when he stepped in off his wing".