Despite the clear difference in ability and result from both sides, it would be quite an uneducated and underestimating guess to consider England should have no problem beating France for a third consecutive time in the Six Nations.
It’s been since 1982 when France have lost their two opening matches to the 5/6 nations tournament, and that has caused head coach Philippe Saint-Andre to bring in plenty of change to his team, which is always about a lot of talent, but something doesn’t seem to be working, kicking off the tournament with a 23-18 loss to Italy before a home defeat against Wales.
Fly-half Frederic Michalak and scrum-half Maxime Machenaud were pushed to the bench after disappointing performances, as Francois Trinh-Duc and Morgan Parra will take over for them a 9 and 10. Vincent Clerc makes a return to the right wing, while Wesley Fofana, who has scored four tries in his previous five test matches, will move to inside centre, as France try to bring a chance of pace to the midfield, while Maxime Mermoz was dropped from the squad.
Thomas Domingo takes Yannick Forestier’s (out of the squad) place at loose-head prop, while Benjamin Kayser is starting at hooker for Dimitri Szarzewski, dropped to the bench. Yannick Nyanga actually gets to play for an injured player at flanker, but Christophe Samson is stepping in for only his second cap instead of Julien Suta.
England, on the other hand, are feeling quite confident, although obviously cautious against a team too talented to overlook. The team have split their last for meetings, including the 2011 Rugby World Cup, but in the annual tournament, England have won five of the last six, with their home success against France when it comes to matches at Twickenham stretching back to 2004.
Still, despite the impressive win against Scotland and the impressive change of pace and style in the clash with Ireland at Dublin, Stuart Lancaster is making a few changes to the lineup, maybe even a bit surprising. Manu Tuilagi is back in the lineup and will be playing at 13 while Billy Twelvetrees, one of England’s finest performers so far, takes a bench seat for a match, as Brad Barritt keeps the other spot at centre.
More changes are Courtney Lawes back in the squad, starting at the blindside (#6) for the first time in an international match, and his first ever Six Nations start. Dylan Hartley will start at hooker for Tom Youngs while James Haskell drops to the bench because of a flu.
Prediction – It’s hard to believe France will keep up their weak performances, that have been missing heart more than anything. They’re also at their most dangerous when counted out, as the RWC showed everyone in 2011. Still, England are playing great at the moment, and the same kind of cohesion in the lineup and lack of slacking off, with the same brand of punishing Rugby they’ve displayed so far, should keep them perfect and en route to the coveted Grand Slam.