Six Nations France v England Preview
Captain Farrell, penalty counts and all the other information you need for the Six Nations match between France and England in Paris
Six Nations France v England Preview
The France v England Six Nations game is often described as Le Crunch, but the French have struggled to get the better of their cross-Channel rivals in recent years. In fact, they have won only two of their last 11 championship encounters with England – those triumphs coming in 2010 and 2014.
France coach Jacques Brunel obviously believes he has the team to inflict a defeat on England this year, making just one change to the side that overcame Italy in round three – Francois Trinh-Duc coming in at fly-half for Lionel Beauxis.
Eddie Jones has made three notable changes to the England team that lost to Scotland in the Calcutta Cup. Jamie George starts at hooker in place of the injured Dylan Hartley, with Luke Cowan-Dickie coming onto the bench. Ben Te’o is selected at outside-centre instead of Jonathan Joseph and Elliot Daly comes onto the wing with Anthony Watson moving to full-back.
With Hartley out, Owen Farrell is given the captaincy and Mako Vunipola is named vice-captain.
So who will be sizzling in Paris? We take a look at what could be decisive factors…
The Key Battle Areas
Discipline – Both these sides have heard the referee’s whistle ringing in their ears during this championship. France have conceded 30 penalties in their three games and England 32, so both will be looking for a single-figure count in this game.
France’s Maxime Machenaud has a kicking success rate of 92% in this Six Nations, which compares favourably to Owen Farrell’s 69%, and England will be wary of concededing any penalties in kickable range.
England will need to adapt far quicker to the referee’s interpretations than they did at Murrayfield. Scotland picked up on the fact that Nigel Owens was allowing a competition at the breakdown and duly took advantage whereas England found themselves on the back foot.
Related: Scotland 25-13 England match report
The southern hemisphere officials in charge in Paris may referee things differently again, but the key for England is to understand quickly what they can and can’t get away with, particularly at the contact area.
Farrell, who is often very vocal during games, will also need to be careful that his questioning of decisions falls into his captaincy remit without crossing the line and irking referee Jaco Peyper.
Try time – If Ireland beat Scotland and score four tries, England will know when they take to the field in Paris that they will also need a bonus-point win to keep alive their title hopes until the final weekend, when they would have a decider with Ireland at Twickenham.
So scoring tries will be high on the agenda for England and could be why they have opted for a back three of Anthony Watson, Jonny May and Elliot Daly, who has made a remarkable recovery from injury.
Jones has spoken of a desire to have more “pace” in the back three this weekend and he has that with this trio. May tops the charts for clean breaks in this championship with seven while Watson is joint second in defenders beaten with ten and Daly is known for his work-rate.
They should be alert to the threat of France’s back three, though, and Remy Grosso in particular. He made 105 of France’s 565 metres against Italy so keeps busy on the wing, even if he’s not as dangerous a runner as the injured Teddy Thomas.
Breakdown – This is where England came most unstuck against Scotland, where Hamish Watson and John Barclay ran riot. Eddie Jones has resisted calls to change his back row, sticking with Courtney Lawes, Chris Robshaw and Nathan Hughes.
Had Sam Underhill been fit, it would have been interesting to see whether the Bath man had got the nod to start. As it is, these three will need to up their games significantly at the breakdown to ensure the back-line have front-foot ball with which to work.
France have an athletic back row in Wenceslas Lauret, Yacouba Camara and Marco Tauleigne, but they are not known to excel in the turnover stakes either.
If you look at the stats from the first three rounds, England and France are remarkably similar in this area. France have won 21 turnovers and conceded 36 while England have won 20 turnovers and conceded 31. And the players from each side who have won the most turnovers? Mathieu Bastareaud and Owen Farrell with four apiece, the Frenchman’s all coming in that Italy game!
So there is certainly room for improvement from both back rows. Interestingly, Jones has two back-row replacements on the bench in James Haskell and Sam Simmonds. The pace Simmonds offers could make a big difference in the final quarter.
Midfield power – Mathieu Bastareaud was the standout performer for France against Italy in Marseille, returning from his ban to make a huge impact in attack. Not only did we see his trademark powerful carries but there were also soft hands – one such offload leading to a try.
Related: France 34-17 Italy match report
Ben Te’o has returned to the England starting line-up and will be tasked with not only restricting Bastareaud’s power game but also countering that with his own forceful carries.
England’s defence in the wider channels was caught out regularly by Scotland two weeks ago and Te’o will need to shore up the holes in that area as well as punching a few of his own. If Bastareaud has more work to do without the ball and more tackles to make, he may not have the energy to last the whole game.
France: Hugo Bonneval; Benjamin Fall, Mathieu Bastareaud, Geoffrey Doumayrou, Remy Grosso; Francois Trinh-Duc, Maxime Machenaud; Jefferson Poirot, Guilhem Guirado (capt), Rabah Slimani, Paul Gabrillagues, Sebastien Vahaamhina, Wenceslas Lauret, Yacouba Camara, Marco Tauleigne.
Replacements: Adrien Pelissie, Dany Priso, Cedate Gomes Sa, Romain Taofifenua, Kelian Galletier, Baptiste Couilloud, Lionel Beauxis, Gael Fickou.
England: Anthony Watson; Jonny May, Ben Te’o, Owen Farrell (capt), Elliot Daly; George Ford, Danny Care; Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Dan Cole, Joe Launchbury, Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes, Chris Robshaw, Nathan Hughes.
Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Joe Marler, Kyle Sinckler, James Haskell, Sam Simmonds, Richard Wigglesworth, Jonathan Joseph, Mike Brown.
What time does France v England kick off?
France v England, Saturday 10 March, 4.45pm, Stade de France
South African Jaco Peyper takes charge of this fixture and will be assisted by Angus Gardner (Australia) and Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa). The same trio will be officiating England’s final game in charge, against Ireland at Twickenham, with Gardner holding the whistle.
The TV Details
The game is live on BBC1 or you can listen to commentary on Radio 5 Live.
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