England head coach Eddie Jones states his desire for England to react to their loss to Scotland with a convincing victory in Paris this weekend.
Following on from his team announcement earlier today (see below), Eddie Jones, Jonny May and Joe Marler reflect on the jobs they have been focusing on ahead of their Six Nations clash with France in 'Le Crunch' this Saturday evening.
England team to face France:
1. Mako Vunipola (vc)
2. Jamie George
3. Dan Cole
4. Joe Launchbury
5. Maro Itoje
6. Courtney Lawes
7. Chris Robshaw
8. Nathan Hughes
9. Danny Care
10. George Ford
11. Elliot Daly
12. Owen Farrell (c)
13. Ben Te'o
14. Jonny May
15. Anthony Watson
16. Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17. Joe Marler, 18. Kyle Sinckler, 19. James Haskell, 20. Sam Simmonds, 21. Richard Wigglesworth, 22. Jonathan Joseph, 23. Mike Brown.
Venue: Stade de France
Kick-off time: 4:45PM
TV channel: BBC1
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Following on from his team announcement earlier today, Jones discussed his reasoning for ringing the changes for his side's trip to Paris.
But what does this tell us about Jones' selections and the game plan going forward? As mentioned earlier in the week, the turf at the Stade de France is already relatively heavy and with a considerable downpour expected over the weekend, Jones is anticipating a need to take the physicality up a level against the French.
This explains the selection of Ben Te'o at outside centre ahead of Jonathan Joseph. Te'o is a physically imposing figure, having proved his test pedigree over the summer with the British and Irish Lions.
That being said, while the selection of Te'o in the centres matches up with Jones' reasoning, one change to the starting XV does not. The England boss has preferred the electric Anthony Watson at fullback in favour of the defensive rock that is Mike Brown.
Jones commented on the change earlier today: “Mike Brown has been excellent for us but he was a little bit off against Scotland and we’ve decided to start Anthony Watson there,” he said.
“We want to attack a little bit more so Anthony starts at fullback with Elliot Daly on the left wing and Jonny May on the right wing. It’s a great back three for us."
With this selection and Jones' comments earlier in the week on the influence the heavy rainfall will have on the game, Jones' suggestion of a turgid affair could well be a red herring to lead Jacques Brunel and his charges down a blind alley ahead of Le Crunch.
Are we about to see an armwrestle with the odd glimpses of attacking threat from England's back three? Or will we witness an all-out attacking affair from a resurging side under Jones? Only time will tell, but the Australian seems to be sending a few mixed signals to a French side currently one from three in this year's tournament so far.
Mako Vunipola has been named vice-captain for the round three fixture and will act as the leading voice in England's pack.
On this appointment, Jones said: “We need to make sure we have one strong voice among the forward leaders and Mako has been doing some great work behind the scenes and will step up and take that on officially against France."
The England head honcho is clearly paying the utmost respect to the physicality of the French pack, with bench loosehead prop Joe Marler reinforcing this message in his statement this morning.
The Harlequins prop said: “They are very heavy, their back five are usually between 130-140kgs, so it’ll be the traditional French pack, and it will be somewhere they will look to get an advantage but it will be a good challenge for us; there is a bit more edge to us as a forward pack.”
A continuation of Jones' mind games or simple straight batting in the face of the media? Marler is more often than not particularly blunt and candid, so from his perspective as a prop that relishes the work in the tight, it's clear what we can expect from the 27-year-old.
Further to this, it is obvious that Marler is well focused on the job at hand in dealing with possibly the greatest scrummaging prop in the world, France's Rabah Slimani.
“I have played against Rabah Slimani several times, he is a world-class operator and has a good reputation for being a powerful scrummager,” explained the prop.
“He has a pretty unique technique and he’ll be a hell of a challenge for either myself or Mako come the weekend.”
Striking While The Iron Is Hot
England's right wing Jonny May has discussed the need for his side to strike while the iron is hot and keep the French quiet early doors.
“The atmosphere in all stadiums in the Six Nations is awesome, and Stade de France in particular is an amazing place to go and play rugby,” said May.
“If they get an early score the crowd start roaring and the confidence within the team grows, so a good start as the away team is important to take the sting out of the home team.”
May scored two early tries in England's clash with the old enemy at Twickenham during round two of the tournament, seeing his side surge ahead by 12 points to zero within 21 minutes. Alongside the additions of Anthony Watson at fullback, Elliot Daly on the opposite wing and Owen Farrell still pulling the strings in midfield, May will be desperate to recreate his moments against Wales in Paris this Saturday.
May also commented on the threat of Toulon centre Mathieu Bastareaud in the French midfield.
“He is a key player for them, but the French have a lot of great players so you cannot over-emphasise on one player, but we will have to be ready for him,” the Leicester man added.
“There has been positive energy in camp, and Saturday is an opportunity for us to bounce back and turn what was a difficult day last time out into a positive experience.”
Bastareaud will be well matched by Te'o in the thirteen channel, leaving plenty for the lovers of Crashball Rugby.
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