France v England pre match analysis

Twenty-four wins from twenty-six is one of the best records England have and the loss last week certainly doesn’t ring alarm bells. It was a blip, but one England cannot afford again as any chance of winning the Championship rests upon ‘Le Crunch’.

Where England’s problems are small, France’s on the other hand are vast following over a decade of mediocre rugby and far from their strong performances from past World Cups.

There are three main problems that currently surround French rugby.

There are too many foreign players in the league. There’s nothing wrong with having a few seasons in France, developing your rugby and returning to your home country (James Haskell) or ending your career in the South of France with the sun on your back and drinking delicious wine nor is there anything wrong with bringing experience and knowledge with you. (Dan Carter, Chris Ashton and Quade Cooper to name a few) However, these players are filling spaces on team sheets and limiting French talent to be developed so that French rugby can find and nurture their future stars. The French U20 squad are doing well this championship but some of these players are being given little opportunity to play back at their clubs.

This leads to poor or little talent and then subsequently player development is lacking. Young players can learn from their predecessors but there needs to be a better young program in place for young French players.

Finally, the fundamental issue that needs to change in French rugby is the standard of fitness. If France are to be serious contenders in future Six Nations and the upcoming World Cup they need to sort their fitness levels out. They have to be fitter if they stand a chance of progressing into the knock out stages of the RWC. Obviously, these problems can’t be fixed overnight nor ahead of their fixture with England. So, what will happen.

The loss to Scotland will have hurt England and no doubt the players will have been put through a week of training they wish to never experience again but that training will be fundamental if France plays the way Eddie Jones thinks they will: “They’ll want to play a rumble game. When they get a break, they become the old French and move the ball quickly”.

England do have a problematic decision on their hands, one that has been noticeable throughout the tournament. The back row. Something just isn’t clicking. Billy Vunipola is still injured and Sam Simmonds looked to be his successor but following his injury the No.8 position has been changing between Hughes and Underhill. But the flankers have been set in stone this tournament – Lawes and Robshaw. However, is Lawes better suited to playing second row or is Jones looking to shape him into the ‘modern day flanker’?

A player set to brighten-up the backline is Elliot Daly who is back fit and included into Jones’ squad for the first time this year. He will be electric at the weekend if he’s selected. His fast-paced line breaks and phenomenal long distance kicking is something that England defiantly benefit from.

My prediction for the weekend is a comfortable win for England, however, I do expect France to put up a fight and give us a run for our money at times. If England lose possession France will no doubt, try and capitalise and take any points they can. England by at least 15 points.

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