England Look to Make an Early Statement Against France
Last updated: February 3, 2017 by Leon Marshal
|Last season:||France 21 – 31 England|
|Competition:||RBS Six Nations|
Defending victors England will begin their title defence on Saturday afternoon as they host France in round 1 of the 2017 Six Nations at Twickenham. England, still confident after having completed the 2016 season without suffering a single loss, will be keen to maintain their momentum and assert some early dominance, whilst their challengers from the other side of the Channel will be out to recapture their old allure. Last year’s fixture in the final round of the competition saw the French buckle under mounting pressure, allowing the visitors, England, to claim their first Grand Slam title since 2003 under Clive Woodward. This year, with neither side at full strength and both vying to get off to a wining start, the scenario is somewhat different.
The next seven weeks will, no-doubt, be Jones’s toughest as England head coach to date. Mounting injuries in the forwards has meant that the defending champions will open their Six Nations campaign without the main enforcer, Billy Vunipola; ex-captain, Chris Robshaw; George Kruis; and Mako Vunipola, all of whom played a key role in last year’s grand-slam deciding fixture. Anthony Watson, one of the most prolific try-scorers in the squad, has also failed to make the team sheet due to a hamstring strain. Joe Marler’s speedy return from a fractured leg gives England a lift in the front row whilst Maro Itoje, who is adept in the back row, shifts to blindside, allowing Joe Launchbury and Courtney Lawes to combine in the second row. The depth of the England squad will be truly tested now; Jones will look to Nathan Hughes to get England over the gain line and to George Ford and Ben Youngs to keep them playing in the right areas of the field – the trusty boot of Owen Farrell will, as ever, keep the scoreboard ticking over.
Since taking over from Philippe Saint-André after the 2015 World Cup Guy Novès has done well to tighten up the French defence. His side, however, still lack efficiency in attack, often failing to capitalise on their numerous line breaks and unable to turn the screw when it matters most. The inclusion of Baptiste Serin at number 9 and Kévin Gourdon in the back row – both players made their debuts in the summer tour to Argentina and proved crucial in the Autumn tests, particularly against the All Blacks – will force England to stay on high-alert in defence. The loss of Wesley Fofana to a torn Achilles means that France will be lacking creativity and go-forward in the midfield; Toulouse centre, Gael Fickou, comes in to try and bolster the French attacking threat at second five-eighth and link up with Clermont flyer Noa Nakaitaci, while Louis Picamole will lock horns with Nathan Hughes in the battle over the gain line.
Saracens lock George Kruis is the latest player to be added to England’s growing list of injuries in the pack. He’s reported to have suffered a knee ligament injury in an intense training session earlier this week. It is not yet known whether he will be fit for the next away game against Wales.
England will be without winger Anthony Watson as they take the field at Twickenham against France on Saturday. A hamstring strain will keep him out for 3 to 4 weeks, which means he may be available for the later stages of the tournament.
It was announced last week that influential centre Wesley Fofana has been ruled out of the tournament with a ruptured achilles. After replacement Henry Chavancy was also forced to pull out due to injury, Mathieu Bastareaud will now feature in what will be his 5th Six Nations campaign. The Toulon centre has not played for France since the coming off the bench in their 62-13 mauling against the All Blacks in the 2015 world cup.
Toulose hooker Christopher Tolofua comes in to replace Camille Chat, who has suffered a bicep injury. Despite mounting injuries, captain Guilhem Guirado maintains his side have prepared well and that they are ready to build on their promising performances against Australia and New Zealand in the autumn.
|England:||Marler, Hartley, Cole, Launchbury, Lawes, Itoje, Wood, Hughes, Youngs, Ford, Daly, Farrell, Joseph, May, Brown|
|Subs:||George, Mullan, Sinckler, Harrison, Haskell, Care, Te’o, Nowell|
|Injured:||Robshaw, Watson, B. Vunipola, M. Vunipola, Kruis, Clifford|
|France:||Baille, Guirado, Atonio, Vahaamahina, Maestri, Chouly, Gordon, Picamoles, Serin, Lopez, Vakatawa, Fickou, Lamerat, Nakaitaci, Spedding|
|Subs:||Maynadier, Chiocci, Slimani, Iturria, Goujon, Machenaud, Doussain, Huget|
|Injured:||Fofana, Chavancy, Lakafia, Chat, Arous, Ollivion|
|England in 2016||France in 2016|
|2nd||IRB World Ranking||8th|
|7 (6)||(at home) Wins in 2016 (away)||3 (1)|
|58-15 vs. Fiji||Biggest win 2016||52-8 vs. Samoa|
|0 (0)||(at home) Losses 2016 (away)||3 (3)|
|–||Biggest Defeat 2016||30-19 vs. Argentina||32||Tries Scored (2016 – present)||18|
|23||Tries Against (2016 – present)||19|
|Y34, R0||Yellow Cards||5|
|1||2016 Finishing Place||5|
|31||Six Nations Titles||21|
- England go into this game in the advantageous position of having completed the 2016 calendar season with a 100% win record. Jones’s side are just four games away from equalling the record of 18 consecutive international fixtures won, which is currently held by New Zealand.
- After a mixed 2016 with 6 losses and 4 wins, France are officially the fourth best team in the Six Nations tournament. They are behind Scotland, Wales, England and Ireland in the official IRB world rankings.
- England finished last year’s tournament as the side with the least number of conceded tries. They scored 14 in total whilst only having their own line breached on four occasions.
- Guy Novès’ side must become more clinical and make the most of their line breaks if they are to improve on their performances from last year. France made 29 clean breaks in last year’s tournament and beat the most defenders, yet still only managed 7 tries.
Head to Head
|Last 5 meetings between the two sides|
|Date||Competition||Game Result||First Try-scorer|
|19/03/2016||Six Nations||France 21 – 31 England||Care 12′|
|22/08/2015||World Cup warm-up||France 25 – 20 England||Huget 46′|
|15/08/2015||World Cup warm-up||England 19 – 14 France||Watson 11′|
|21/03/2015||Six Nations||England 55 – 35 France||Youngs 2′|
|01/02/2014||Six Nations||France 26 – 24 England||Huget 1′|
Conclusion & Betting Tips
In the last 20 meetings between the two sides England have won 11 matches, with France claiming victory in 9, showing that both sides are well capable of winning this fixture. The recent success of England under Eddie Jones means that they are fancied as favourites, however France always have the ability to surprise. It’s a close call, but we advise going with the bookies on this one and placing an England to win bet. You can also try adding French number 8 Louis Picamoles as an anytime try scorer with a price of 7/1 at Ladbrokes for some added value.