‘Le Crunch’ rarely disappoints and this weekend’s clash promises to deliver, with both teams eager to make an impression and put themselves into the best possible position ahead of the final round of fixtures.
We have rated the two teams that were named earlier today and given our verdict on which side has the advantage in Paris on Saturday.
- Hugo Bonneval 7 vs Anthony Watson 7.5
Watson is certainly capable of being more than a ‘7.5’ at full-back, but the spotlight will be on him with Mike Brown dropped to the bench and France will pepper him with kicks early to test his positioning and reliability under the high ball.
- Benjamin Fall 7.5 vs Jonny May 7.5
Two clinical wings, who are a threat to score at any moment. There are questions over the defence of both players, which is all that holds them back in these ratings. May perhaps shades the form battle, but Fall brings a bit more physicality, should his side be struggling to break the gain-line.
- Mathieu Bastareaud 7.5 vs Ben Te’o 7.5
These feel like horses for courses selections for both sides. With Bastareaud and Te’o both in at outside centre, France and England are sacrificing their ability to get the ball wide quickly, but are bolstering their ability to run through and over the opposition and stop the heavy-carriers on the gain-line.
- Geoffrey Doumayrou 7 vs Owen Farrell 8
Doumayrou is an exciting player and one who excels for La Rochelle, but he is yet to really stamp his authority on the international game. Farrell came out of the Calcutta Cup game with some credit to his name, despite a generally flat and uninspiring performance from England. Expect Farrell to exploit a tiring French defence in the final quarter of the game.
- Remy Grosso 7.5 vs Elliot Daly 8
If Daly shows no rust or ill-effects from his recent injury, he should shade this match-up, with a turn of pace and a kicking game that Grosso can’t match. The Frenchman is not dramatically outgunned, however, and can cause England plenty of problems with his footwork and finishing ability.
- Francois Trinh-Duc 7 vs George Ford 7.5
This might be the most interesting match-up of the game, with Trinh-Duc recalled due to France’s fly-half stocks taking a battering and Ford coming off one of his poorer games in an England jersey. Trinh-Duc could be the swing factor in this, but if you’re a cautious man, the safe money must be on Ford bouncing back with a solid display in Paris.
- Maxime Machenaud 8 vs Danny Care 7
Machenaud has done exceptionally for France so far this tournament, whilst Care has struggled to fill the sizable boots of Ben Youngs. That injection that Care usually brings in the second half has been missing for England, as has the control that Youngs usually brings for the first 60 minutes.
- Jefferson Poirot 7.5 vs Mako Vunipola 8
Vunipola had a relatively quiet game against Scotland and looked fatigued. Coming off a bye week, he should be in a good position to be back at his industrious best. Poirot is no slouch, either, and gets through a mountain of work for France. He is one of the few French tight five forwards you feel could last 80 minutes if it were asked of him.
- Guilhem Guirado 8 vs Jamie George 7.5
It’s not been a blistering season for George, who couldn’t put a foot wrong in 2016/17, and there’s a strong chance the hangover of a British and Irish Lions tour is at play. Nevertheless, this is his opportunity to stake a claim for England’s much-discussed two jersey, he just has to best France’s best player to do it. The French captain is ultra-consistent and, in international rugby, has an advantage over his less experienced opponent.
- Rabah Slimani 7.5 vs Dan Cole 7.5
Cole wins the conditioning battle here, but Slimani is more adept at forcing scrum penalties out of opposition sides and both players will affect the game in different ways. It’s tough to separate them, really. If the game is tight and staccato, the edge could go to Slimani, but if the tempo is pushed and the ball kept in play, it should favour Cole.
- Paul Gabrillagues 7 vs Joe Launchbury 7.5
Launchbury is another English player coming off an uncharacteristically mediocre performance in Edinburgh, but his ability and experience combined are enough to swing this contest in his favour. Gabrillagues is a player of some talent and potential and certainly a player to keep an eye on as France progress and develop, but he is not in Launchbury’s calibre just yet.
- Sébastien Vahaamahina 7.5 vs Maro Itoje 7.5
Vahaamahina’s stock is rising and whilst Itoje’s is not falling, he is another player that looks a bit fatigued following the Lions tour of New Zealand in the summer. Even with that potential fatigue in mind, this is another match-up like Slimani vs Cole, where an open, high-tempo game will favour Itoje, and an arm wrestle will be to Vahaamahina’s benefit.
- Wenceslas Lauret 7 vs Courtney Lawes 7.5
There has been a lot of flak coming Lawes’ way following the loss to Scotland but it should not be forgotten that he has been playing well at blindside for England. He is not the biggest asset in the breakdown contest but if England can get parity in that area, then he brings an impressive skill set to the pitch, regardless of the number on his jersey.
- Yacouba Camara 7.5 vs Chris Robshaw 7.5
Both players have enjoyed good Six Nations campaigns to date, with Camara offering slightly more as a carrier and Robshaw stepping up with his work rate and stamina. A faster tempo would suit Camara’s style of play, but also sap energy and that’s when Robshaw comes into his own. You could flip a coin on this one.
- Marco Tauleigne 8 vs Nathan Hughes 7.5
Hughes looked off the pace in Edinburgh, whilst Tauleigne quietly impressed against Italy, barely making a mistake and helping keep France on the front-foot. Hughes should be in better shape for this game and, with Sam Simmonds on the bench, can go hard and empty the tank, but the Frenchman edges this encounter based on what we have seen so far.
France – 111.5
England – 113.5
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