Source: 6 Nations

France v England – A Look Ahead

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It’s a cockeyed world we live in.

Les Bleues continue hunting for a first victory over the Red Roses since 2018. At the same time their junior teams trounce their English counterparts in a way that recalls derisive comments about professionals playing amateurs; 74-0 the latest offering.

And so many of both current elite squads have advanced through their respective systems.

Public Opinion

These days it’s easy to discover what the public think about their national team.

For Les Bleues it was a few ‘bravos!’ for their 40-0 hammering of Wales, alongside warnings about the need to step up against les Anglaises. Better handling and especially cleaner line-out work demanded.

One voice even calls for the omission of the three Sevens players. That may already have been in the co-coaches’ mind; would Chloé Jacquet have played centre if Marine Ménager had been available?

Another critic would like to see more stability in selection processes. Therein lies a lesson: England can swap players around with minimal loss of cohesion. Few other nations can claim that.

It’s harder to find criticism on English websites, but it was there, harping on the chasm set between their structures and everyone else’s. Not a lot they can do about that.

Then and Now

For many years England found it really tough taking a win on French soil. Since they broke the sequence, they have been far less inhibited. Their win two years ago in Bayonne looked very different from what happened at Twickenham last year, but it was a salutary lesson for the hosts that England are no longer daunted by bands, boos and the superiority of the Marseillaise over the National Anthem. (Oh dear, I’ve written that on St. George’s Day!)

English back play against Ireland was some the best we have seen in a very long while. And we should remember that they were having to manage without Helena Rowland and, until late in the game, the once indispensable Emily Scarratt. At least Scarratt’s brief appearance allowed two remarkable examples of the passer’s art, then the chip through off the outside of her boot for Ellie Kildunne to canter over for yet another try. Meantime Rowland showed intelligence and modesty when appearing in a Welsh podcast.

French Prospects

You get the impression that the general attitude in the republic is: let’s hope for the best.

It hardly needs repeating that the French squad contains a galaxy of outstanding players. The second half at HQ last year (33-5 in France’s favour) proved the point admirably. But the first half told a different tale.

Criticism of the newish coaching team increases. A glance at French results below justifies the concern. It varies from ‘why the constant changes in personnel; do they know their best team?’ – to ‘is their current playing style paying dividends?’ Off-loads bring risks as well as rewards.

The longer the losing streak to England goes on, the harder it must be for seasoned players to cast off doubts about their ability to rectify matters. The game is played in the head as well as on grass.

Financial note: the six tries the French scored against Wales have added €3,000 to their kitty. Nice work if you can get it. (Did the English win anything? – a Mars bar each, perhaps?)

French results thus far:

Ireland 38-17; Scotland 15-5; Italy 38-15; Wales 40-0

England results thus far:

Italy 48-0; Wales 46-10; Scotland 46-0; Ireland 88-10

The bald fact remains that France can win a long-desired Grand Slam on Saturday. The Ground
The Stade Chaban-Delmas is named after a WW2 resistance fighter born Jacques Delmas. ‘Chaban’ was his cover name during the war. He went on to become a leading figure in French politics and Prime Minister from 1969 to 1972.

The ground arouses contrasting opinions. On the one hand it is ‘old and decrepit’; ‘should be torn down staightaway’. On the other, ‘it’s full of character, reviving great memories’. Its capacity is 34,462, following progressive alerations. Plans for its restructuring have been under way since 2012.

It’s excellent news that tickets are selling fast. A record crowd for a game in France now seems certain.


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