CHANGING your team around for one match is a big gamble by Martin Johnson. Sometimes these gambles come off, other times they don’t, but it could just give England the extra incentive they need to shock the French in Paris.
All of a sudden, Johnson has the likes of Northampton’s excellent young pair Chris Ashton, Ben Foden, Toby Flood and Mike Tindall looking to impress by playing out of their skins, and that could give England that little extra zip.
France are confident at the moment and fully deserve to be on the verge of a Grand Slam after a fantastic Six Nations.
But, one thing’s for sure, Marc Lievremont will have wanted to play the England team of last week. At least then they would have known what to expect, now England are a different proposition and an unknown quantity.
Johnson’s men were disappointing in the 15-15 draw with the Scots last Saturday and didn’t look confident with their game. I think he knew that side wouldn’t have been able to stop the French in their tracks.
It’s a last throw of the dice and it could just prove to be a masterstroke.
But, to be honest, I still fancy France to continue their unbeaten record – especially on home soil – and complete a first Grand Slam in six years.
Sadly, England look likely to be without captain Steve Borthwick and that is a big blow to both them and us at Saracens as he is a tremendous leader of men.
Steve’s spent a few days with his injured knee in a brace this week and even though he is due to be reassessed by medics today, I think it’s highly unlikely he’ll feature.