French line-out a threat to England hopes

JASON LEONARD
RUGBY COMMENT

ENGLAND must be confident going into tomorrow’s RBS Six Nations showdown with France. They are playing better with each match and are at home, but I’m surprised at predictions of a landslide. That’s not going to happen.

France may have lost both games so far but are due a big performance, and what better occasion than at their bitter rivals when everyone has written them off? It wouldn’t erase their defeats but it would go a long way to making up for them.

The danger with playing France is that they are capable of scoring two or three tries in quick succession, so even with a healthy lead in the last 15 minutes England will not be able to relax. When they get their tails up, France are possibly the best attacking side in the world.

England’s changes reflect the fact it’s likely to be a confrontational fixture. The French pack have underperformed but will want a big game in the scrum, where the returning Dylan Hartley can provide the hosts with extra feistiness.

France also pose a major threat at the line-out. England lost to Australia and South Africa in the autumn – both teams with strong line-outs – and Stuart Lancaster’s selection of Courtney Lawes is an attempt to combat that danger.

Lancaster’s willingness to make changes, despite having won both games, shows England are in a position of strength and confidence. It’s hard on the guys dropping to the bench – James Haskell, Tom Youngs and Billy Twelvetrees – but it keeps people on their toes and shows it’s all about the next game.

I think England will win, but it’s important they replicate their start in Ireland; keep the scoreboard ticking over and demoralise the opposition – something France are susceptible to. I don’t see it being decided until the last quarter, though, with a score of around 28-18.

England’s most capped player Jason Leonard is a Senior Advisor for Besso Insurance Group, an independent Lloyd’s Insurance Broker specialising in all forms of Commercial and Personal Lines insurance www.besso.co.uk