France v England - Teams and Prediction
SIX NATIONS, ROUND FIVE: France coach Fabien Galthie has insisted his side will be “ready to respond” to some typical Eddie Jones taunts when they attempt to win a first Six Nations title since 2010 by defeating England in Paris on Saturday.
Les Bleus are also bidding for a first Grand Slam in 12 years and victory over England in the final game of this season’s Championship would be a huge morale boost ahead of next year’s World Cup on home soil.
France entered this Six Nations as favourites after a November campaign that culminated with a dazzling 40-25 win over New Zealand at a raucous Stade de France.
But they were far from their attacking best in a nervous 13-9 victory away to Wales last week, for all a defence marshalled by specialist coach Shaun Edwards held firm.
None of this is lost on England boss Jones, who loves to unsettle the opposition with a few well-chosen words.
Galthie, however, speaking after naming his side, said Thursday: “We listen and absorb what our opponents say about themselves and us. And that contributes to our work, our preparation.
“But the rendezvous is Saturday evening at the Stade de France. And we will be ready to respond.”
The former France captain, who took charge after the 2019 World Cup, added: “We have learnt from our defeats.”
Galthie has recalled Damian Penaud after the wing, who has scored three tries in this year’s tournament, missed the Wales match following a bout of coronavirus.
Former scrumhalf Galthie said England had “transformed its game-play” under veteran Australian coach Jones as he recalled their 2016 Grand Slam, part of a record-equalling run of 18 successive Test wins by a leading rugby nation.
England, however, have been nowhere near those heights lately, managing just seven tries this tournament – five against perennial strugglers Italy – and they could now finish as low as fifth for a second successive Six Nations if they lose in Paris.
England ‘back-breakingly tough’
Jones, however, has made France 2023 his over-riding goal since guiding England to a 2019 World Cup final in Japan where they were beaten by South Africa.
But France team manager Raphael Ibanez, who spent several seasons in the English Premiership, insisted England were always “back-breakingly” tough opponents.
England, who arrived in Paris earlier than usual to simulate pre-match conditions at next year’s World Cup, go into the game after a record 32-15 home defeat by Ireland.
They played most of that match a man down, with lock Charlie Ewels sent off after just 82 seconds – the quickest red card in Championship history.
“One extra player will help,” said Jones. “You don’t have to be a genius at maths to tell you that 15 v 15 is better than 14 v 15.”
Jones has selected Nick Isiekwe to replace the banned Ewels, while recalling fullback George Furbank and veteran scrumhalf Ben Youngs, with Sam Underhill replacing Tom Curry [hamstring injury] at openside flank.
But how those England players who put in a massive physical effort against Ireland – the score was 15-15 with 20 minutes to go – back up could determine the course of Saturday’s match.
“If they play with that intensity, spirit and tactical discipline, we’ll give ourselves a hell of a chance to win the game,” said Jones.
Players to watch:
For France: Star wing Damian Penaud is back and he is one of the best finishers in the world right now. Melvyn Jaminet has made that No.15 jersey his own in the France squad with some sublime performances. Romain Ntamack and Antoine Dupont are playmakers that can turn the game on its head and they are probably the best halfback combination in the world at the moment. In the pack, Grégory Alldritt brings the power and physicality in open play and in the tight phases, while Paul Willemse is a colossus in the second row.
For England: Eddie Jones surprised fans by naming George Furbank in the No.15 jersey. Furbank will be tasked to help combat France’s kicking game as well as providing some stability in the back three. Flyhalf Marcus Smith will certainly test a strong French defence, but whether he has enough firepower out wide to help do that is another matter. Maro Itoje has been England’s workhorse in the pack in the tournament and he will be an important figure if England are to upset the French. His second-row partner Nick Isiekwe will also have a spotlight on him as he gets a rare start.
@rugby365com: France by 17 points.
France: 15 Melvyn Jaminet, 14 Damian Penaud, 13 Gaël Fickou, 12 Jonathan Danty, 11 Gabin Villière, 10 Romain Ntamack, 9 Antoine Dupont (captain), 8 Grégory Alldritt, 7 Anthony Jelonch, 6 François Cros, 5 Paul Willemse, 4 Cameron Woki, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Julien Marchand, 1 Cyril Baille.
Replacements: 16 Peato Mauvaka, 17 Jean-Baptiste Gros, 18 Mohamed Haouas, 19 Romain Taofifenua, 20 Thibaud Flament, 21 Dylan Cretin, 22 Maxime Lucu, 23 Thomas Ramos.
England: 15 George Furbank, 14 Freddie Steward, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Henry Slade, 11 Jack Nowell, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Sam Simmonds, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Courtney Lawes (captain), 5 Nick Isiekwe, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Will Stuart, 2 Jamie George, 1 Ellis Genge.
Replacements: 16 Nic Dolly, 17 Joe Marler, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Ollie Chessum, 20 Alex Dombrandt, 21 Harry Randall, 22 George Ford, 23 Elliot Daly.
Date: Saturday, March 19
Venue: Stade de France, Paris
Kick-off: 21.00 (20.00 UK & Ireland time; 20.00 GMT)
Expected weather: It will be clear with a slight breeze: High of 16°C and low of 2°C.
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Mike Adamson (Scotland), Frank Murphy (Ireland)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)
AFP & @rugby365com