France not up for Le Crunch
February 25, 2011
France's Sebastien Chabal warms up for his side's clash with England © Getty Images
So, Marc Lievremont has thrown a few verbals England's way this week as they prepare for a massive Six Nations game at Twickenham.
It's nothing new, but if I was Martin Johnson I'd be looking forward to the post-match function to give him a good kicking. I quite fancy Johnno against Lievremont in a fight and I quite fancy England against France. I think France have panicked.
There are a number of changes to the France side but one name on the team-sheet screams out at me. Why have they picked Sebastien Chabal? They haven't picked him for 18 months, what does he offer?
He's just a target. They think he's some kind of talisman in France but he hasn't played well for them for months, for years. England will be thinking, 'bring it on, if you want to make that amount of changes'.
For some reason Lievremont has also dropped Morgan Parra - he's been their best player for the last 18 months. I'd also be plying Maxime Medard with high balls. He's not a fullback. He's a very good wing and a very good rugby player but let's see what he's like under the high ball with loads of Englishmen chasing him down.
Obviously Lievremont's got a bit too aggressive, had a bit too much blue cheese and red wine and decided to go a bit crazy, slagging off the English and dropping his own team.
On the other side of the coin, Johnson has steered well clear of getting involved and that's the right thing to do. You don't want to get involved. There's no need. It's clear that they're worried about how good England are. That's a good sign. If England concentrate on themselves and play their own game then France will struggle to live with them.
I think England should be looking to attack them around the breakdown, defensively. You've seen sides, in particular Scotland, attack the transition zone between the forwards and the backs and find gaps. Sean Lamont scored a very good try in the second half for Scotland and England will have watched that video and realised that the French defence doesn't get back in play quickly, particularly the third or fourth defender. Look for Toby Flood to attack that channel.
A number of commentators have pointed to France's trip to Twickenham in 2009 when England hammered them and I could see that happening again. The French just seem to want some attritional game where it's tight and they can rely on penalties.
They only showed their flair against Scotland and you feel that that only came as a need to resurrect some pride after the Australia performance at the Stade de France. I can't see them coming and throwing the ball around I think they'll try and soak up England defensively. England will take them on in an arm wrestle early doors. I think that after 20-30 minutes England could be 10-15 points up.
It's going to be a huge occasion. It was my favourite game when I was playing, I think. The French had all the flair and we'd play against them, score attractive tries and they'd play boring rugby. Watch this space.
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