Close Call For Risk Takers In Twickenham
England v France
Can England produce the goods against France at Twickenham on Saturday? The Six Nations title all boils down to this last match…
England’s opening day victory over Wales and their subsequent steamrollering of Italy featured the kind of buccaneering rugby that English fans have seen all too rarely over the years, but those results also demonstrated a tendency to lose composure, traits that were evident in their defeat in Dublin and their scrappy victory over Scotland. They are top of the 6 Nations table, but they have a tough final game.
France have not been at all convincing. They looked impotent against the Scottish defence in their opening day win, were well-beaten in Dublin when they tried but failed to outmuscle Ireland, and struggled to have any impact against Wales. Yet after their victory over Italy last weekend they still have an outside chance of winning the 6 Nations.
England had a number of players back for the match against Scotland and the likes of Tom Youngs and Geoff Parling, who came on in the second half at Twickenham, will be desperate to get a start in this crucial game. But coach Stuart Lancaster has been forced to make a lot of changes throughout the tournament so may opt for continuity in his starting fifteen.
Philippe Saint Andre made eight changes to his side for the game with Italy and may have tinker further with the squad after Camille Lopez and Jules Plisson suffered injuries against Italy. Prop Eddy Ben Arous is definitely out and has been replaced by Thomas Domingo.
This will be the 99th meeting between England and France. England have won 53 to France’s 38, although that gap is largely explained by the 17 matches that it took the French to record their first victory in this fixture, in 1927.
Since the 6 Nations began, England have had the edge, winning nine of their fifteen encounters, although they lost their latest, twelve months ago, a game which turned out to be one of the best in the tournament’s history. England trailed 17-3 after 20 minutes, fought back to lead 24-19 with two minutes left, but were undone by a Gael Fickou try.
The last game at Twickenham was much scrappier. France put up a spirited show, but suffered their third consecutive defeat in the 2013 tournament, thanks to Owen Farrell and Toby Flood, who kicked six penalties between them to secure a 23-13 win.
On current form, this should be a comfortable home win. But a bare win might not be enough. If Ireland beat Scotland by a significant margin, the pressure will really be on England,
and I’m not sure they will have the composure or ruthlessness to force a twenty point victory over a French side that does contain a number of world class players, even if they haven’t shown much class so far.
England could be vulnerable if they have to take too many risks, so back France +9 in the Match Handicap market at 10/11.