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France v England - teams and prediction

ROUND FIVE PREVIEW: England head to Lyon to face an equally resurgent France on Saturday, holding an outside chance of pipping Ireland to a Six Nations title not many would have predicted at the start of the campaign.

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Steve Borthwick’s side need a bonus point victory in Lyon, with Paris’ Stade de France out of use due to it being prepared for this summer’s Olympic Games, and must hope Ireland lose to Scotland by more than seven points earlier in the day in the final round of the competition.

Despite a surprising third-placed finish at last year’s World Cup, Borthwick and his conservative outfit were criticised in many quarters but they are now 80 minutes from a first tournament success since 2020.

“It’s out of our control. Our job is to play as well as we can on Saturday night and take another step forward,” Borthwick told reporters on Thursday.

“We took another step forward last week.

“Winning is a habit. It is a habit we want to get into,” the former England captain added.

Borthwick has made just one change from last Saturday’s statement 23-22 victory over Ireland with Elliot Daly coming in on the wing for Immanuel Feyi-Waboso, who is missing due to concussion.

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Marcus Smith is on the bench despite his match-winning drop goal alongside powerhouse centre Manu Tuilagi, in what could be his final England game.

The Samoa-born 32-year-old has been linked with a move to various clubs in France at the end of the season, with Borthwick unable to select players based outside of England.

“The very best players make everyone else five percent or 10 percent better, because of their presence, and Manu has that effect,” former lock Borthwick said.

“So I can’t wait to see his impact on the players and then his impact when he comes onto the pitch,” he added.

(Continue below …)

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Ramos the leader

Borthwick’s France counterpart Fabien Galthie has kept the same matchday squad from last Sunday’s 45-24 win over Wales.

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Thomas Ramos retains his place at flyhalf outside of Nolann Le Garrec, who claimed the Player of the Match award in Cardiff.

Ramos was a crucial part of Les Bleus’ 53-10 record win over England last season, scoring 23 points from his usual position of fullback as the visitors stunned Twickenham.

“Thomas has a lot of leadership in the gameplan and within the squad,” Galthie said.

“He’s confident and he controls the game and does so in tough moments very well,” he added.

Despite the confidence-boosting victory, questions remain about Les Bleus’ defence, which had been a strong point under Shaun Edwards since the Englishman took over in late 2019.

“We need to be more precise in many sectors, notably in defence. We have a big meeting in that sector against England,” Galthie said.

“We have to be consistent, compact, solid.

“In their gameplan, they attack often, powerfully in the middle of the field.

“We have to put our hands up and be counted, as we’ve done in the past,” he added.

A major change in England’s set-up since the World Cup has been the arrival of defence coach Felix Jones, who helped South Africa to consecutive Webb Ellis trophy wins in 2019 and four years later.

They have the best defence in the Six Nations behind Ireland despite a few teething issues in conceding sloppy tries to Scotland and Italy earlier in the competition.

“We see well that they chose to copy South Africa, which jumps on top of the attack, and allows little time to play,” Galthie said.

“We’ve prepared as a result of that with our attack, to respond to those aggressions with and without the ball,” he added.

Players to watch

For France: Coach Fabien Galthie named an unchanged side – keeping faith with his squad from last week’s 45-24 win over Wales. Gregory Alldritt captains the side with Leo Barre, Nicolas Depoortere, Emmanuel Meafou and Georges-Henri Colombe keeping their places after making their debuts in Cardiff. It is the first time Galthie has kept the same starting line-up from one match to another since last February. Nolann Le Garrec remains at scrumhalf after his man-of-the-match performance on his first start with Maxime Lucu on the bench despite scoring a try in Cardiff. Le Garrec, as well as fellow new faces in fullback Barre, centre Depoortere, lock Meafou and replacement prop Colombe all brought much-needed energy to the team. Thomas Ramos at flyhalf will also grab his share of the spotlight, after an admirable showing in Cardiff.

For England: Title-chasing England have recalled Elliot Daly for their final Six Nations clash. The experienced wing is an enforced alteration to the team that started last weekend’s dramatic 23-22 win at Twickenham, replacing Immanuel Feyi-Waboso after the medical student ruled himself out with self-diagnosed concussion symptoms. Daly’s return on the left wing means Tommy Freeman switches to the right wing. Powerhouse centre Manu Tuilagi is among the replacements, the first time the injury-prone midfielder has been included in an England matchday 23 since last year’s World Cup third-place play-off win over Argentina in Paris. George Ford, tactically astute against Ireland, remains at flyhalf, with England coach Steve Borthwick resisting the temptation to give Marcus Smith the No.10 shirt after the Harlequins flyhalf came off the bench to land a last-ditch drop-goal against Ireland. But Borthwick has been forced into making a bench change among his forwards, with Ethan Roots replacing Chandler Cunningham-South, who has a calf injury.

Head to head

Prediction

@rugby365com: France by nine points

France v England prediction

Teams

France: 15 Leo Barre, 14 Damian Penaud, 13 Gael Fickou, 12 Nicolas Depoortere, 11 Louis Bielle-Biarrey, 10 Thomas Ramos, 9 Nolann Le Garrec, 8 Gregory Alldritt (captain), 7 Charles Ollivon, 6 Francois Cros, 5 Emmanuel Meafou, 4 Thibaud Flament, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Julien Marchand, 1 Cyril Baille.
Replacements: 16 Peato Mauvaka, 17 Sebastien Taofifenua, 18 Georges-Henri Colombe, 19 Romain Taofifenua, 20 Alexandre Roumat, 21 Paul Boudehent, 22 Maxime Lucu, 23 Yoram Moefana.

England: 15 George Furbank, 14 Tommy Freeman, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Ollie Lawrence, 11 Elliot Daly, 10 George Ford, 9 Alex Mitchell, 8 Ben Earl, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Ollie Chessum, 5 George Martin, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Jamie George (captain), 1 Ellis Genge.
Replacements: 16 Theo Dan, 17 Joe Marler, 18 Will Stuart, 19 Ethan Roots, 20 Alex Dombrandt, 21 Danny Care, 22 Marcus Smith, 23 Manu Tuilagi.

Date: Saturday, March 16
Venue: Parc Olympique Lyonnais, Lyon
Kick-off: 21.00 (20.00 UK & Ireland time; 20.00 GMT)
Expected weather: Some sun, then turning cloudy. High of 19°C, with a low of 7°C – about 12°C at kick-off.
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant referees: Nika Amashukeli (Georgia), Damian Schneider (Argentina)
TMO: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)

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