The 2011 Rugby Union World Cup quarterfinals are two days from the first two matches on Saturday. The most intriguing of the two on the Sabbath is probably the clash between England and France, the two best nations in the Northern Hemisphere (usually), the last two winners of the Six Nations tournament and the most successful of the Northern sides in the World Cup.
While England’s smoother (in comparison) way through the group stage might suggest that they’re the favorites going into this one, or maybe their record against the French in recent times, winning four of the last five meetings.
Maybe it’s the fact that the morale and mood at the French camp are quite low. Marc Lievremont blames players, they don’t seem to like him. Nothing the bodes signs of success. A loss to Tonga, despite being a garbage time loss, doesn’t bode well either.
Despite all that, England have things to worry about. Their true ability and try scoring quality break out only late in matches, the meaningful ones (Argentina, Scotland) at least. The kicking from Jonny Wilkinson has been abysmal, making things much more complicated at crunch time then they should be. Toby Flood will play at Centre, and the two will hold a closed doors kickathon to decide who’ll be rewarded with the responsibilty and pressure of kicking England into the Semi Final.
England do play in a style that relies heavily on their kicking accuracy, but the decision to kick the ball into touch have rewarded them with winning tries against Scotland and Argentina. I would rather see Flood play with Wilkinson together at 10 and 9, but Martin Johnson usually knows what he’s doing. The World Cup form, or lack of, suggest it’s Flood who should be kicking. After all, it’s been eight years since 2003.