As teams prepare for the final round of games in this year’s Six Nations and with sensible punters backing France, the favourites, to beat England, it’ll help to take a quick look at the table as is stands after four games.
So, on current form, it looks as if France will go on to win their first Grand Slam and championship for the first time since 2010, and Ireland will finish second and win the Triple Crown, assuming they overcome Scotland which they should do as the Irish have home advantage in Dublin.
Although England, down to 14 after fewer than 90 seconds against Ireland, played with passion, emotion and aggression at Twickenham against Ireland,heroic displays in adversity don’t always win internationals, and it won’t have gone unnoticed by the French team and their coaches, Fabien Galthie and Shaun Edwards, that England failed to score a try.
England may well cause the shock of the campaign by upsetting the form book in Paris, and forwards such as Jamie George, Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes and Ellis Genge, supported by Kyle Sinckler, may be able to reproduce yet another memorable effort, but is it likely when France are at home, have so much at stake and possess the best national team for many years?
The French pack that defended so well in Cardiff against Wale – Baille, Marchand, Atonio, Wohi, Willemse, Cros, Jelonch, Alldritt, plus their replacements..are so powerful, and having waited so long to win the Six Nations, more than 10 years, you can’t imagine them falling at the last hurdle.
The French backs, too, with stars like Dupont, Ntamack, Jaminet, Fichou and Danty,may not have exploded against Wales, but against England at Le Stade de France with 80,000 for the most part backing them, it’s unlikely that they’ll be so restrained.
France have scored 14 tries in their four games whereas England have managed seven and while the French only scored once against Wales, with the Grand Slam there for the taking in Paris, you’d back them to beat England’s defence on more than one occasion with the pace and flair they can put together.
As England under coach Eddie Jones prepare for their last game in another campaign without a trophy and possibly fifth place again for the second tournament running, they can certainly look back with pride on the team effort against Ireland and take confidence from their narrow win at Twickenham last March (23-20) against France, but given the resources thrown at England their supporters have every right to demand more.
A look back at the history books shows that since the first international between England and France in 1906, England have won 60 games and the French 41 and seven have been drawn.
The latest edition in this sporting saga promises to be a memorable and emotional night for the French, but England, and coach Jones who, in particular has received so much criticism, may produce the performance of a lifetime and ruin France’s dreams and ambitions and hand the Six Nations title to Ireland instead.