Experienced England will beat fresh-faced France

Joe Marler

This weekend, England kick off their 2020 6 Nations campaign against France, an opening game that holds plenty of weight as arguably their toughest away match of the whole tournament. France have named a very young squad with plenty of potential but, over recent years, potential is all they’ve had. Could this be the year they realise it?

England are returning to competitive international rugby for the first time since a fantastic world cup, albeit a disappointing final, and will certainly have something to prove.

It’s a new look back row for England with Billy Vunipola not available, traditional second rower Courtney Lawes shifts to the blind side flank, Tom Curry moves to number 8 and Sam Underhill plays in his usual position on the openside. Any team that loses a player like Billy Vunipola will miss his ball-carrying prowess, and his ability to draw defenders in and offload in the tackle to get over the gain line.

A more familiar back line will no doubt be able to exploit front foot ball if they can get it, but will this new pack composition be able to give them a platform on which to create? Carries from Kyle Sinckler and Sam Underhill may be key. England will also look to bring Tuilagi in to run hard lines off Ford in order to get things moving early in the phases.

A few key match-ups to mention; Mohamed Haouas has a tough introduction to international rugby up against an experienced Joe Marler. Could scrum time be an area where England can use their experience to turn the screw? Another key area is between two debutants in Furbank and Bouthier, who start at 15 for their respective teams. Both have been in good form for their clubs, but this is a big step up to international level. England have great kicking options in Ford, Farrell and Daly who may look to put pressure on the new man.

As per the cliche, it’s difficult to say which French team will show up on the day. They field the youngest squad in the tournament, selected by a brand new coaching team. There is no denying the potential of this young side, particularly the back line which includes an exciting half back partnership in Dupont and Ntamack of Toulouse, an equally mouth-watering midfield of Fickou and Vakatawa, not to mention two class wingers in Teddy Thomas and Penaud.

Like England, if they are able to get a foothold on the game up front, there will be plenty of weapons out the back to punish most defences. Perhaps the scariest element of the new set up for the French is in the coaching room, in the form of Shaun Edwards. He has been able to mould every team he has worked with into a strong defensive unit, something France have lacked in recent years. If they can front up on Saturday, England could be in for a real challenge.

But, and it’s a big but, their experience, compared to the World Cup finalists they host is limited. When they get their backs against the wall on this big stage, where will the leadership come from? They have a new captain in Charles Ollivon who boasts a not so whopping 11 caps. Even with all the talent on display it seems that if England put together a sturdy performance, they should have more than enough to get past the French.

By Edward Francis

25 thoughts on “Experienced England will beat fresh-faced France

  1. Thanks to eccentric Ed’s selections this game feels too close all.Our back row looks cobbled together , I’m not quite sure why Ewels gets the nod over Kruis and the less said about the half back situation the better.
    I also think too much is being made of the French fielding kids. No they sdon’t have experience but they will have the fearlessness of youth and if the crowd get behind them it could be a long old afternoon for Faz and co.

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    1. Not sure why he got the nod over Launchbury either Acee. I would love to see Launchbury and Itoje paired together, they seem to me to be a very complementary combination.

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      1. Launchbury is injured but the word before the world cup was that Eddie wanted to pick Ewels but kept Joe in the end for his experience. Quite frankly I find this unfathomable as Ewels is a pretty ordinary player by international standards. I have no idea why he is there ahead of Kruis. In fact everything to do with the farcical call of playing Curry at 8 and putting Lawes back at blindside with Ewels there to be pedestrian, looks like Peak Eddie in terms of stubborn I-know-best while actually coming up with a load of rubbish.

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  2. Well, isn’t it yet to be seen whether this French team has potential? And didn’t England have just one fantastic game in the WC? What other? More a workman like tournament surely. As for a ‘disappointing’ final. That’s an understatement. Agree that England should turn the scrum screw, though somewhat concerning that they’re already being tipped for uleashing a kick fest raining down on Bothier’s head. Hope they have more to offer than that. Besides, given sufficient ball, Dupont & Ntamack might return the favour on Furbank’s noggin. Also, the French backs, unlike much of their pack, mostly aren’t edpecialy novices. Most are known names, Bothier excepted. If Edwards has improved France’s defence, it may be timely, as it too could be in for a scarey time tomorrow. As for French leadership, we’ll have to see. Mind you, I saw precious little of this from Farrell in the WC final, particularly in his decision making which looked like challenging zero to me. Athough I disagree with Jones’ cobbling at 8, 6 & lock, it still can’t really be deemed a ‘new’ back row. Some positional shifting sure, to accommodate Billy’s absence (again and England better get used to this!), but the names are mostly the same. However, agree that with England’s experience, especially in their pack, they should win through.

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    1. I know I shouldn’t but I am going to rise to it.
      A ‘workman-like tournament’. Dear God you spout a load of old rubbish sometimes Don.
      To lose just one game whilst putting two of the four Rugby Championship nations to the sword, then utterly dominating another that was widely fancied to not just be the best team in the world but to win the entire thing, is anything but workman-like and any claim otherwise is patently absurd.
      Do try and keep the trolling to a relatively subtle level. This kind of blatant silliness is beneath you.

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      1. You can’t help it Pablito. Bit defensive & personal again though aren’t you? You may be in danger of resembling those remarks. You’ve also taken 1 issue from a number made, out of context, but never mind. I don’t have to justify 1 comment to a triballist, surely do I? However, to satisfy my curiosity, as I must have missed it, which game, other than to the NZ match, was shall we state, outstanding? As I acknowledged England’s win over NZ as not being so described as ‘workman’ like, how is what I have stated ‘absurd’? I think you could re-read my commentary as a whole & not defensively cherry pick 1 isolated point, which I stand by incidentally. On another note, welcome back Pabbers, I’ve, nay, I’m sure we’ve, all missed you after yr extended sabbatical. HNY.

      2. In retrospect, you may have a point Pab. I picked England to prevail today, but obviously I do ‘spout a load of old rubbish sometimes’, not to mention ‘blatant silliines’. However, following today’s result, what say you now? Especially when England only attacked through their backs after the horse has long bolted. Troll? Reality check required?

      3. Well actually I agree with The Don. England were brilliant against a NZ side that was a mile below their usual standard. England were efficient against a really poor Aus side. And the game v Argentina was all over after red card 1st half in a game that England were very average in. Then they got thumped in the final by the 2nd biggest margin in RWC final history.

        England are a top 4 side but not that great.

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      4. Does Jacko’s comment mean he too is a troll Pablito? Or have you just lobbed a hand grenade then bolted like the horse.. or Nigel W? Mmm.

  3. An afterthought, given that Lawes has supposedly been picked for his line out presence, not to mention ballast, couldn’t he have exhibited these attributes from 8? Less disruptive then, with Unerhill and Curry being able to fill their normal flank places.

    1. Ah but we’re dealing with Ed’s logic Don. “Lawes has played flanker before but not 8, ergo I’ll stick him at 6 but play a 7 at 8”!!!

      1. Yes, well Acee, Lawes as a loosie is papering a crack IMO. Shows a lack of planning & foresight for covering Billy V’s absence(s. It’s happening too often now). However, as an 8, Lawes would at least allow the other 2 flankers to retain their natural places & bring a better back row balance. Lawes could also carry from the back. Whether he’d be less effective there than at 6, can’t state.
        More likely to know this only if England go on to the back foot in Paris.

      1. Wasn’t it this very fixture a few years ago when the Lawes at 6 experiment truly backfired…?

        On balance the only surprise in the selection for me is that if Ewels – perhaps this might be a season of him being 1st choice to see if he is up to the grade, after a few years of very much bit part involvement. Apparently he was Itojes locking partner throughout their successful age group teams and a captain to boot. Hopefully he will come through.

        I was rather hoping that the Sarries scandal may have been used as a good time to try another captain. With Farrell so heavily involved in Sarries, could it have been a good time to look at someone else? My personal choice would have been Underhill. As it has been correctly pointed out in this blog, Farrell has inspirational qualities but lacks clarity of thought in tight situations.

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  4. It might be a bit early for this new French side and their coaching team, where Edwards could be a significant asset.
    Hope it is. The prospect of a fully firing French team has me very concerned. I too wouldn’t set too much stall in comparative experience; this French squad is brimming with talent and potential.
    I take England to win narrowly, but this is a game fraught with very real dangers.

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  5. I have France to win by 7. The beating England took in the WC final will hang around their heads for a while longer. Plus the French want to prove that the cancelled WC match favoured England & that must be put right.

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