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The stat that signposts a home win – France vs England talking points

By PA
Damian Penaud scoring for France at Twickenham last year (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

England and France clash in the climax of the 2024 Guinness Six Nations in Lyon on Saturday night, by which time it will already be known if anything is at stake on the match.

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Here, the PA news agency examines five talking points as England aim to snatch the title from Ireland’s grasp.

Farewell to Manu?
Manu Tuilagi’s first appearance of the Six Nations could also be his last for England. Although the Sale centre has remained tight-lipped over his talks with French clubs Montpellier and Bayonne, he appears certain to leave at the end of the season, at which point he will be 33 years old.

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Beyond 80’s Sam Larner breaks down how impressive Ben Earl’s performance was against Ireland. Watch the full analysis show now on RugbyPass TV

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England teams have been built around his marauding runs for over a decade and the national side are unlikely to field his like again.

When he steps off the bench it will be only his 60th cap, a legacy of long spells out injured. Had he been fit for every match since his debut in 2011, he would have amassed 156 caps by now.

Fixture
Six Nations
France
33 - 31
Full-time
England
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Ford holds on… for now
Marcus Smith emerged as England’s match-winner when Ireland were stunned in round four, landing the deciding drop goal as well as providing a cutting edge in attack.

But in a show of faith from Steve Borthwick, George Ford continues at fly-half to complete a full set of starts in the championship.

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It is easy to forget amid Smith’s headline-generating intervention at Twickenham that Ford has performed well in this tournament, most notably orchestrating the comeback against Wales in round two and pulling the strings to potent effect last Saturday.

But for all Ford’s influence, Smith is the coming man and a stellar performance will be needed against France to hold on to the jersey for the summer tour to Japan and New Zealand.

Potential bonus points fiasco
For the first time since bonus points were introduced in 2017, a scenario has arisen whereby the Six Nations winners can claim the title despite accumulating fewer victories than the side finishing second.

That is the prospect facing England if they win at Groupama Stadium and Ireland claim at least a bonus point against Scotland.

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It is hard to envisage any outcome other than Ireland successfully defending their title, but if they do so with their closest rivals beating more teams, it will be a bad look for the tournament.

Unleash the big beasts
France’s starting and replacement forwards weigh a combined 1,000kg, a startling total that can be both a strength and weakness for the hosts.

They field the four heaviest players in Uini Atonio, Emmanuel Meafou, Georges-Henri Colombe and Romain Taofifenua – each of them over 21 stones. But with such size and power comes vulnerabilities that can be exploited through clever half-back play, a good kicking game and superior conditioning.

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Stats signpost home win
France are odds-on favourites to register their third win of the tournament and there is one statistic that helps explain why. Since becoming the Six Nations in 2000, Les Bleus have performed better than any other side in the final round of games, winning 17 of 24 matches.

England, meanwhile, have the second-worst record with just 10 victories. Whatever the data suggests, ‘Le Crunch’ is set up to be a humdinger with England lifted by a triumph over Ireland that is their greatest performance since the 2019 World Cup and France impressing against Wales in their last outing.

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Brian O'Driscoll
Brian O'Driscoll
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J
Jon 1 hours ago
British & Irish Lions free agent open to Super Rugby switch

There are a couple of teams who could use a stop gap experienced head. Blues - I’m not sure the Blues have signed a replacement for Caleb Tangitau (if he hasn’t been let go to make room for Barrett) yet, or whether Reiko is going on sabbatical and/or will remain in the squad. With exciting young French player Xavi Taele looking destined for higher honors in black, talented breakthrough rookie Cory Evan’s, and a couple of utilities, in AJ Lam and Bryce Heem(even Clarke?), all trying to learn the midfield trade, Williams could be a great aid. The Blues signed key English center Joe Marchant before he was raised to that level, and were possibly in the hunt to bring back the dependable Tele’a from the Highlanders. Possible the main squeeze which would put to bed any signing here would be the battle at 10 with Beauden’s return, and the forcing of Plummer back into the midfield. Hurricanes - Jordie Barrett is off to Leinster for a sabbatical next year but the more likely signing would be Billy’s brother back in the team. The Hurricanes are light on the outside with the loss of Salesi Rayasi to the Top 14 and if no quality is found to back up Kini Naholo, the midfield of Sullivan or Proctors could find themselves on the wing and space for a leader to show the Hurricanes three All Black midfield hopefuls (Higgins, Proctor, Umaga-Jensen) how its done. Highlanders - Rotation is high as usual at the Highlanders and versatility remains a strength with a lot of the squad. With compatriot Rhys Patchell signing a move to the JRLO, the passing of outside back Connor Garden-Bachop, and confirmed departure of Argentine wing Martin Bogado, the versatility of many of the young backups in the squad could see a veteran 12 like Williams being a strong partner for the robust Tele’a. With hope that the other Umaga-Jensen brother can force him out of the starting lineup, and shifting the sides general Sam Gilbert back into 10, the off-contract midfielder might seen as the perfect option for a squad still looking to fill one back spot.

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