England v France Six Nations Rugby Betting Odds, Tips & Preview
February 24, 2011 | In: Articles
England v France – this is the big one. This has been penciled in a the Six Nations decider, the England v France battle royale at Twickenham on Saturday. Both sides have enjoyed winning starts to the new season, picking up two victories from two matches. England started with a bang against the Welsh down in Cardiff, in what was billed as a tricky test for them, and was a key indicator of how well they would fare in the Championship this year. England came through that challenge with great aplomb, and then completely destroyed the Italians at Twickers the following weekend, with winger Chris Ashton running in four tries in the one sides match. As for France, they were made to work by Scotland in their opening match in Paris, but they showed sustained quality in the forwards and from running from the back in counter attacking positions. The French looked the best side of the tournament on the opening weekend, full of flair, control and adventure, even though there was a weak spot or two in their defence. But then they went to Dublin, where the Irish gave them a much sterner test. This was a massive match for both sides, and it could have swung either way. Neither side were great to be honest on the day, trading blows, trading mistakes and the French, who were accused of being arrogant and complacent in the match, squeezed through with a three point victory. Quite how big a victory that will prove to be in this year’s Six Nations for the defending champions remains to be seen. While the Grand Slam has been seen to be out of reach for any side in this year’s competition, the winner of the England v France match will be over half way to that task.
England will be favourites, mainly because of home advantage, and because of the way the French performed on the road in their last match. England look to have come on leaps and bounds under Martin Johnson finally, with the players finally getting the message about playing expansive attacking rugby. The right personnel is in the line up, with the likes of Ben Youngs, Chris Ashton and Ben Foden being able to exploit space so very well. Toby Flood has shown a new level of maturity on the international scene, and while the defence in the midfield could still be stiffened up somewhat, at least England are showing a penchant for crossing the try line, something they were struggling for so long to do. One worry for the home side in this big match against France, is about opening the game up too much. France are experts at exploiting any tiny little opportunity presented to them with space, they can counter from anywhere. This will be England’s biggest test so far of the 2011 RBS Six Nations, and they will face the toughest defence they have encountered so far. For England, the match could all be won up front. France aren’t the heaviest in the scrum, but have shown great scrimmaging technique, but England have the power, technique, control and mobility to win the match up front. Even though England haven’t been at their strongest up front because of injuries, the replacement players have come in to the set up with tremendous performances. Andrew Sheridan and captain Lewis Moody could both return to the starting fifteen on the weekend.
This is a big match, not only for the Six nations, but for the World Cup ambitions of both sides as well. Both sides are on the fringes when it comes to being tipped to win the World Cup, but this match should carry a lot of momentum and confidence forward this year. This is the match which should decide the 2011 Six Nations really, and with home advantage, England should be in the driving seat. This is a massive match though, and no doubt the French will be up for this, and France coach Marc Lievremont has bluntly come out and said that the French do not like the English. While this is a clash of the two unbeaten teams in the tournament, slipping into World Cup mode is important, and England look as if they are already moving through the gears. With France’s awkward stumbles against the Irish last time out, this will be a major test in seeing how they are progressing. It is all well beating Scotland comfortably at home, it is the difficult away days against the best teams which really set your standards. France have already made changes to their side, with Sebastien Chabal, Vincent Clerc, Yannick Jauzion and scrum half Dimitri Yachvilli coming into the side. Apparently the French have a plan up their sleeve to stop the big threat from Chris Ashton on the wing. England need the big carries from the likes of James Haskell up front to really get into the French, and that initial contact and recycling the ball quickly is the one big area in which England can gain dominance.
France squeezed out a 12-10 win over England in the tournament last year on their way to the Grand Slam, that was in Paris though. The last time the two met at Twickenham, there was a substantial 34-10 victory for England in 2009. That completed a run of three straight victories over the French for England, and England do hold a pretty decent head to head record against the French. In 93 test matches, England have won 50 matches, while France have picked up 36. The biggest margin of victory for England was a 37-0 thrashing, and the biggest points total that England have ran up against the French at Twickenham was 48. Can we expect that kind of return again from a resurgent England? Probably not, as this should be a close match, with no more than seven points separating the two sides realistically. England average 15 points per match against France, while the French in reply average just under 12 points per match, so a close match is on the cards. Can England take full advantage of playing at Twickenham? Or will the French spoil the party? Back an England win, home advantage could just tip the scales between the two European giants.