England can make toast of French in Le Crunch

ENGLAND Vs FRANCE

Tomorrow – 5.00pm BBC1

MARC LIÈVREMONT does not like the English. The French coach admitted so this week, initiating the mind games ahead of ‘Le Crunch’ tomorrow.

The fact is hardly surprising, given that it is the English that stand in the way of a Grand Slam for Les Bleus, while England themselves also have one eye on their first lossless Championship since 2003. Lièvremont’s admission might also have been expected given his frustrations at his nation’s recent record at Twickenham, the venue for tomorrow’s showdown. Two wins from five matches at HQ for the French flatters to deceive - look a little closer and there is plenty to favour the hosts.

The Red Rose won by a margin of 24 points on the last meeting on English soil, two years ago, and secured a 26-18 victory in the 2007 tournament. France narrowly won a World Cup warm-up in August 2007 against a largely experimental England side - only James Haskell and Andrew Sheridan from that starting XV will start tomorrow - while the French win in 2005 was by a solitary point. Without getting carried away, against Italy England at times showed form of the like that we haven’t seen in any England team since the Grand Slam-winning side eight years ago. Then, with Martin Johnson as captain, the Red Rose lauded over their Gallic opponents with a 31-point victory.

Rugby Union has moved on considerably since then, so while we should not expect such a pronounced win again, I am confident enough to predict England will overcome their five point handicap. Get on with Victor Chandler who are offering evens on all Six Nations handicap bets this weekend.

Similarly to their record in southwest London, France’s opening two results in this Championship perhaps paint a rosier picture than is deserved. A two-point victory at Lansdowne Road had more to do with Ireland’s lack of discipline and failure to take advantage of their chances than any exceptional rugby by their opponents. France took a while to get going in that match and when faced with a barrage of sound from a fired-up Twickenham perhaps the same should be expected of them this weekend. England to lead at both half-time and full-time looks good at evens, also with Victor Chandler.

In a gem of match against Scotland, France showed moments of genius but, on the downside, they also shipped three tries. To put that in context, the Scots failed to score a single touchdown at home against an average Wales side a fortnight ago and managed only three during the whole of the 2010 Championship. There will be chances for the home side, which will please Chris Ashton in particular, while the nature of England’s new breed of rugby will likely present openings too. We made a packet buying Ashton’s try minutes a fortnight ago (bought at 47, makeup 158), but I think the French backs will pay extra attention to him tomorrow - they’d be daft not too. Gaps may appear elsewhere, though, and it is still worth buying total match tries at 3.9 with Sporting Index.

POINTERS...
England to win with 5pt handicap at evens with Victor Chandler
England to lead HT/FT at EVS with Victor Chandler
Buy total match tries at 3.9 with Sporting Index

ENGLAND Vs INDIA

Sunday – 9.00am Sky Sports 2

ENGLAND’S victory against Netherlands in their first World Cup outing did little to dispel fears about their tournament hopes. The plucky Dutch, powered by a sublime innings from Ryan ten Doeschate, forced the Three Lions into the third-highest successful run-chase in competition history and can be disappointed not to have defended their total having seen the way Andrew Strauss’ men played.

Uncharacteristically
feeble in the field, England were let down by bad bowling too. James Anderson, in particular, had a shocker and will wince if he ever looks at the scorecard again having conceded 72 runs without a breakthrough. Anderson is almost certain to keep his place, but the selectors will need to decide whether to draft in an additional specialist spinner, in the shape of Michael Yardy, to support the bowling attack at Bangalore on a track expected to offer little for pacemen.

Something certainly needs to change if England are to avoid embarrassment against India. Our pre-tournament selection justified their favouritism in the outright market with a commanding 87-run win over Bangladesh. India blasted their way to 370/4 from their allotted overs and, having seen England bleed 292 runs against the Associate side, spread bettors might like to consider buying India’s runs at around 290 with Sporting Index should they bat first.

It is hard to see the host nation failing to win this one and 4/9 on Betdaq is a fair price for them to accomplish that. Those wanting to have a punt on England are advised to back Graeme Swann to be top English bowler.

Swann was one of the few to emerge with any credit from Nagpur where he took two wickets and would have had another but for a horrendous mix-up between Kevin Pietersen and Anderson in the field. He should find the conditions to his liking here and at 11/4 with Victor Chandler is the standout choice in the market.

POINTERS...
India to win at 4/9 on Betdaq
Buy India runs at around 290 with Sporting Index if batting first
Graeme Swann to be top English Bowler at 11/4 with Victor Chandler

BEHIND THE LINES

Tomorrow evening’s game between England and France at Twickenham is likely to decide the destination of this year’s Six Nations Trophy. We are offering even money on both sides of the handicap – with England giving up five points and France getting a five point start. Martin Johnson’s side are 4/9 in the outright market on this game and punters can also get 8/11 for them to win the tournament and 7/4 to do the Grand Slam.

England play India in the Cricket World Cup on Sunday morning and they will have to play a lot better than they did against the Dutch if they’re going to win this one.
We were looking to take on the Three Lions at the start of the tournament and we’ve seen nothing to make us change our minds. India are 4/9 to win the game, with England at 9/4 and we expect the Indians to be too strong.

The Carling Cup Final on Sunday gives Arsenal the chance to win their first trophy since 2005. Birmingham will be tough opponents, but we reckon the Gunners will be celebrating. They are 1/2, the draw is available at 3/1 and a Birmingham victory 5/1.