French rugby hasn’t looked so promising in a while and Les Blues will face England on the back of an impressive, hard-fought win over Scotland in the previous round.
La Rochelle lock Thomas Lavavult and Lyon’s Dylan Cretin have been ruled out for the upcoming Twickenham clash, whilst the uncapped duo of Julien Delbious and Alexandre Roumat have also been dropped and replaced.
France are level on points with England, and the World Cup hosts are determined to finish as strongly as possible to generate momentum for the tournament. The French have a tall order on their hands, but a win is certainly possible if they exploit England’s weaknesses in the scrum.
How Are England Looking?
England will be without captain Owen Farrell for the France clash, marking the first time the Saracens man will be absent from an England squad since the 2015 World Cup. Steve Borthwick has recalled Marcus Smith, whilst Ellis Genge will likely take over captain duty.
The Farell decision marks Borthwick’s biggest decision since he was appointed the England manager three months ago. Presumably, the decision was made due to Farrell's lukewarm form in the 2023 Six Nations, where Farrell has had a poor goal-kicking record and cuts a frustrated figure on the pitch.
Marcus Smith is back in the squad after being released last week. The 24-year-old recently impressed in Harlequins’ emphatic win over Exeter in the Premiership and the young star will be keen for some more game-time under Borthwick’s watch.
England lost their first game at the 2023 Six Nations but have since responded with wins over Italy and Wales. Courtney Lawes will be absent due to injury, and it looks likely that Borthwick will select Ellis Genge as his captain for the France clash.
The stakes could not be higher for both England and France, and both teams need to achieve victory as badly as each other.
Steve Borthwick admits that England are far behind the elite rugby sides, but the building blocks are certainly being put in place.
Borthwick is seeking a more expansive approach in his reign, but he’ll have to take inspiration from Scotland’s performance against them last week, where the Scots put a roadblock on their threat and nullified the brilliance of Antoine Du Pont.
France have only averaged 45% possession at the 2023 Six Nations, but their speed and directness have more than made up for it. We all know how dangerous France can be if they’re allowed to build play, so England will have to be on high-alert if they wish to disrupt them.
Fabien Galthie, the France head coach, will likely try to use his side’s rapid attack to silence the Twickenham crowd and exploit the weakness of the still-in-transition England.
Key Battle Is The Scrum
France’s starting tighthead, Uini Atonio, will be absent for the England clash and Borthwick’s men will have their tails up during the set-piece. Borthwick’s men will likely have pinpointed the line-out as a key battle, as they have the second-best success-rate out in the Six Nations here.
France, on the other hand, have the second-worst line-out success, making this an area England can exploit. It’s very possible for England to emerge victorious, but they’ll have to make sure France do not get any joy on the ball. Antoine Du Pont and Thomas Ramos (the leading points scorer at the 2023 Six Nations) may be brilliant, but England have had bigger challenges over the past few years.
Maro Itoje has made more tackles than any England player at this tournament, and seeing him go up against stars Du Point and Ramos will be a highly-entertaining and crucial battle.
England v France Teams
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