Eddie Jones has warned England fans not to underestimate France in Sunday’s Autumn Nations Cup final at Twickenham, claiming they have a proud history of causing upset results and referencing an ambush of the All Blacks that happened eleven years ago. 

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The French had travelled to New Zealand in 2009 with a side lacking numerous established players, but they still pulled off a shock victory in Dunedin and halved the two-game Test series. 

For this Sunday’s final in London, Fabien Galthie has selected an XV containing none of the starters that defeated Ireland 35-27 in the October 31 Six Nations finale and just one starter – Matthieu Jalibert – from the team that beat Scotland 22-15 at Murrayfield in the November 22 Nations Cup game.

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The utterly ruthless way France assistant Shaun Edwards prepares rugby teams

Their selection for Twickenham has left Jones believing that the scenario where so many people are expecting an England Nations Cup final win against an unfamiliar France XV is similar to the dynamic that surrounded the build-up to the famed 2009 French-All Blacks meeting in the southern hemisphere.

“Strong team, very strong team,” said Jones when asked for his opinion about the Nations Cup final French XV that has been generally dismissed as a shadow B team.

“You just have to look back to 2009 when they went on tour to New Zealand, the first Test of a two-Test series. They didn’t have a lot of their senior players available and they won that Test. We know that the French are capable of great things, they have got great depth in their rugby, the Top 14, and particularly at the moment they are on a project to win the World Cup in 2023, so this is just part of their project.

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“Look, we are always picking our best 23,” he later added when asked if England’s selection consistency in starting 13 of the XV that began last year’s World Cup final – and the most experienced England team of all time with 813 caps – was a  sign of respect for the challenge the revamped French present. 

I have been consistent about that from the word go. Test match rugby is about picking your best 23. If you just look at the guys coming through on our bench, it’s exciting for England rugby that we have the depth coming through pushing the guys that are starting for us. 

“Of course we respect French rugby, you can never underestimate a French team. As I said, their history shows on that 2009 tour what they are capable of doing. They have set themselves a project of winning the World Cup in 2023.

“Historically we have seen they did that with their football in 1998. Gerard Houllier was the technical director and they set a project to win that World Cup, and in 2018 they set another challenge to win the World Cup. We don’t underestimate France at all.

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“It’s no advantage (having a settled side). They have got a squad in place, they are playing different members of their squad. We have been able to select from the core of our squad so it’s one squad against another, no one gets a head start. It’s all square when we run out there on Sunday.” 

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