England vs France At Twickenham: A Rugby Feast

26 02 2011

Here we go then for what will probably be the deciding round of Six Nations rugby. At the half way stage of the tournament and, with only England or France looking capable of winning it, the biggest game on the cards tonight it is likely to be a cracker.

France have reinforced their team with the big man Sebastian Chabal in an attempt to fight the perceived English physicality whereas England have resisted the temptation to make any changes as players come back from injury – something that has to be a good thing. We can’t help but think that in this case Marc Lievremont has got it wrong and Martin Johnson has got it right.

Chabal is a fine and hugely popular player but would probably better serve France as an impact player. To move the supremely talented and athletic Harinordoquy to the flank to make room for him seems like one of those half thought through decisions. Last time France were at Twickenham, Chabal was selected to play the hard man role, only to go missing for the entire match and hasn’t started since the drubbing by Australia in the Autumn. A ‘horses for courses’ selection policy rarely works completely with our belief being you should always pick the best players and trust them to do the job.

With most of his front line players available or in cases where they are not, the back ups doing a great job, Johnson has no such worries about his England team. It has been quite some time since an opposing team was partially selected on the basis of what England were doing – something that is a huge compliment to where he has taken England to over the past 6 months. Anyone who has been reading this blog for longer than this will remember how scathing we were about Johnson in the early part of his career as a selector and coach, yet the progress England have made over the past few months has meant he has justified his position. It may have taken two years of Steve Borthwick, annoying press conferences and interesting selections, but finally England are making sustained progress and we love it.

The game today could set either side up for a Grand Slam and so the importance cannot be understated. A disciplined, efficient and exciting England rightly start as favourites but France are probably still the more talented team. If they click you still never know what might happen and this uncertainty is why we cannot wait!

 

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