BOTH sides will be equally fired up when they run out at the Stade de France tomorrow, for different reasons. The hosts have their eyes trained on the Grand Slam, while England are in town to spoil the party. But while they can’t be separated for desire, nerves could play a deciding role.
There’s no doubt that Marc Lievremont’s team will be under huge pressure from the crowd to finish off the job. In that sense, playing away could help England, and they’ll have a collective wish to crack the French by getting at them early on.
I expect to see Martin Johnson’s men test the hosts with a flurry of high balls right from the off and from thereon in do their level best to make it horrible. England need to make it difficult for the French and frustrate them; if you let them play their game they will you cut you wide open.
I think England look dangerous. Johnson was right to make changes from the team that drew with France and it’s great to see Chris Ashton get a chance. It’s not that individual people have played that badly, but collectively they haven’t gelled. Mike Tindall will help in that department.
Jonny Wilkinson hasn’t played very badly, but the team has not performed and he has suffered the consequences. Toby Flood has also done really well when he has come off the bench in his place. If England were going for the Grand Slam you would probably pick Wilkinson for the points he adds to the side.
I feel for the dropped James Haskell, who misses the chance to start in his new home city, but he has a big part to play in England’s future. It’s a tough one to call but if asked to stick my neck out, I’d tip England to nick a draw.
Kyran was speaking on behalf of www.gameplansolutions.co.uk