Expectations are huge after a perfect display against Ireland… but I still back an England win against France
- England recorded a fantastic 32-20 victory against Ireland in Dublin last week
- The level of that display has heightened anticipation ahead of playing France
- But France beat England 22-16 last year with an amazing performance
It is going to be really tough for England to replicate last week’s Ireland performance — that was 10 out of 10 but if they get to seven or eight at Twickenham, they should win against France.
Everyone in the English team deserved huge credit for how they put away Ireland last week. It is going to be very challenging to back that up.
The French absolutely know what is coming and after that Wales do, too. It is whether, for England, you can play that suffocating style again which was so impressive to witness.
Henry Slade scored two tries as England secured a famous victory in Ireland last week
France, meanwhile, were defeated by Wales in Paris in their opening encounter
It was that good against Ireland that their performance will be analysed in great detail by England’s coming opponents but, make no mistake, France are a team that, regardless of selection, can really hurt.
England now have two really tough games to come. France and then Wales — two teams who know how to beat them and will be relishing the challenge.
Let’s not forget that France beat England 22-16 last year, in an amazing performance. Wales should have beaten England last year, too, when they lost 12-6, had Gareth Anscombe’s try disallowed and then saw Sam Underhill perform an incredible try-saving tackle on Scott Williams late on.
England need to make sure they go out at Twickenham today and perform; the expectation now at the stadium will be massive and if you don’t start well it can become really difficult.
I have experienced it, when you are expected to win and it’s a little bit of a slog early on it does not quite happen. I feel like that might be the case this week.
Upsets do happen in Six Nations rugby, as we saw last week in Dublin. That’s why I think it was good that Eddie Jones made a couple of changes, one enforced one not, with Courtney Lawes in for Maro Itoje and Chris Ashton replacing Jack Nowell.
The selection of Chris Ashton on the wing for Jack Nowell potentially strengthens the team
The selection of Ashton on the wing in place of Nowell potentially strengthens the team. Nowell is a great player but Ashton just has that X factor. When you see England have him, Jonny May and Elliot Daly in the back three, that is just awesome. That is as good as England have had for a long time.
Ashton plays a little bit differently to May, in the way that he comes inside to sniff out opportunities, so that is a good combination to have on the wings. It is a great selection.
I would have started Ashton in the last game but I am a little concerned that Jones has backed him to score an early try.
OK, England have scored inside the first three minutes in their last four Tests — an amazing statistic — and Ashton has clearly been added to enhance England’s scoring potential not just early on but throughout the game.
Courtney Lawes replaces Maro Itoje in an enforced change for England boss Eddie Jones
It’s his first start since 2013 in the Six Nations and the last time Manu Tuilagi started two in a row in this tournament in the centres was that year as well, so England are getting proven international players back in the team.
England have players fit and playing well — a great position at the start of World Cup year.
But I am wary about France. You don’t become a bad team in one half of rugby. Yes they had a 16-point lead last week and lost to Wales but they will go well today.
Prediction: England by six points.
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