France vs. England preview: Rivalry renewed again
One week following England’s success at Twickenham they travel to the Stade de France to face Les Bleus again as they progress with their World Cup preparations.
England did well to survive a battering up front in the closing stages of the match to win 19-14 against France last Saturday.
Stuart Lancaster has made 14 changes to the starting XV against France for this weekend with only Jonny May retaining his spot after scoring the winning try last Saturday.
The starting team includes Skipper Chris Robshaw, which demonstrates the team is much closer to Lancaster’s strongest side. This is emphasized when you see that it contains 12 of the side that beat Les Bleus 55-35 in their final match of this year’s Six Nations.
Fullback Mike Brown also returns after being unable to play following a concussion he suffered against Ireland during the Six Nations while lock Joe Launchbury is also back after being sidelined since October due to neck surgery.
Nevertheless, there is no place among the 23 for Sam Burgess or Henry Slade even though they made eye-catching Test debuts last weekend. The choice will intensify assumption over their potential participation in the World Cup next month.
France coach Philippe Saint-Andre has also shuffled the pack, making 12 changes to the side that lost at Twickenham last weekend with Scott Spedding, Louis Picamoles and Yoann Maestri, being the only players to keep their place.
Stade Francais Skipper Pascal Pape leads the side in the absence of injured Thierry Dusatoir, but Saint-Andre has insisted their Captain will be fit for the start of the World Cup.
• The first Anglo-French rugby union match was held on March 22, 1906, at Parc des Princes in Paris.
• France has hosted England 49 times, winning 25, losing 22 and drawing twice.
• England has won three of their last five clashes with Les Bleus at the Stade de France
After two mainly second-string sides went to war last weekend at Twickenham, we should get a much clearer sense of where both teams is at this weekend just under a month from when the World Cup kicks off. France will not want to lose on home turf, but they may struggle against England, who has recalled their big hitters while their Captain Thierry Dusautoir is a huge loss for Saint-Andre’s team.
England by 15
France: 15 Scott Spedding, 14 Yoann Huget, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Noa Nakaitaci, 10 Frederic Michalak, 9 Sebastien Tillous-Borde; 1 Eddy Ben Arous, 2 Guilhem Guirado, 3 Rabah Slimani, 4 Pascal Pape (c), 5 Yoann Maestri, 6 Damien Chouly, 7 Bernard Le Roux, 8 Louis Picamoles.
Replacements: 16 Benjamin Kayser, 17 Vincent Debaty, 18 Uini Atonio, 19 Alexandre Flanquart, 20 Yannick Nyanga, 21 Rory Kockott, 22 Remi Tales, 23 Gael Fickou.
England: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 Jonny May, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs; 1 Joe Marler, 2 Tom Youngs, 3 Dan Cole, 4 Joe Launchbury, 5 Courtney Lawes, 6 James Haskell, 7 Chris Robshaw (c), 8 Billy Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 David Wilson, 19 Dave Attwood, 20 Nick Easter, 21 Danny Care, 22 Danny Cipriani, 23 Billy Twelvetrees.