England 44 – 8 France
Twickenham Stadium, 10th February 2019
Scoring a try just six seconds over the one-minute mark was a good sign of things to come for England as they hosted France at Twickenham. In this Rugby World Cup year, performances like this at the Six Nations can be hugely promising.
The try in question came via Jonny May who chased down a kick from Elliot Daly and came down on the ball just inside the touchline. Owen Farrell’s conversion attempt narrowly missed the target – and despite the early lead, this failure to kick between the posts caused a drop in the smile of Eddie Jones.
Farrell succeeded in his chance to regain lost points when minutes later French hooker Guilhem Guirado gave away a penalty for not rolling away, leaving the English captain a 35-yarder from straight in front of the posts. It’s the seventh minute of the match and the eighth point for England.
France put a reminder in to not discount them – with Parra scoring moments later, again by way of penalty which went in perfectly halfway between the posts. Yet another penalty in a row was scored, Farrell taking it again ensuring that from here on out, it was England’s game.
Going forward with devastating pressure from a lineout, England started to batter through France’s defence in the 24th minute. With little ground left to cover, the French team were desperate not to concede again, but Farrell had other ideas, whipping the ball out to the left for May to catch again, who powered home on the last few yards.
May seemed desperate for the hat-trick, and following the commotion of a France knock-on claimed his third of the day. Farrell made his second conversion, and it made it look easy as he effortlessly took the shot.
A last minute try from Henry Slade sealed the first half at 28-8 for England. France ended the half looking desperate for anything they can get, resulting in openings being left and mistakes being made. England yet again utilising the forward kicking meta game to advance and remained tight in the defence whenever France took the ball.
France fullback Huget took one too many knocks in the first half and was pulled by the team doctors after failing a head injury assessment during the break. Thomas Ramos fills his boots from the 41st minute onwards.
France were instantly put on their heels in the second half and stayed on the back foot for most of the duration. After a long run and break from England, Ashton was high-tackled by France’s Fickou just off the try line, resulting in a penalty try being awarded by the referee. Giving England this penalty try was about the closest the French got to scoring themselves in the second half, with a dominant showing from the men in white.
Five minutes later, the referee uses TMO to halt the French protesting over captain Owen Farrell’s touch down on the right hand side. The Saracens man converted his own try, taking his personal points tally to sixteen.
France started to gain some creativity points later on in the second half. A few cheeky runs towards the England end we taken, featuring close slips around some of the forwards, but each advance was ultimately stopped by the English grit. The might of Eddie Jones’s high expectations and erratic behaviour on the touchline only served to spur the team on as complacency peered around the corner.
Courtney Lawes seemingly took control of the game for a few minutes, with a whole host of smashes against the advancing Frenchmen and then returning fire as he lead the way back into their half of the pitch.
The game ended 44-8 – a devastating blow to France’s hopes in the Six Nations, but a fantastic five points for England, picking up the bonus point for a three-try lead over their opponents.
What did the Managers think?
Farrell and Slade take top praise in this match from the boss Eddie Jones and fans alike, and the pace-driving kicks of Ben Young deserve a special mention here too.
Jones’s focus on improving England’s team unity over looking at the French side paid off. After calling them “an interesting side to play against,” the coach was full of their praises as an unpredictable, creative side and one that’s “full of talent.”
His opposite number at the helm of the French bench, Jacques Brunel was similarly praising of the England side he’d just faced. Speaking to press after the game, Brunel spoke of a side who “always impose their power” in defence and on the front foot, too. Recognising that England had seen the better of pre-tournament favourites Ireland and then relentlessly dominated France the coach said “they have found their form… I was very impressed with their performance. They dominated most of the game.”
England v France, Six Nations: The Line-ups:
15 Elliot Daly, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Manu Tuilagi, 11 Jonny May, 10 Owen Farrell (capt), 9 Ben Youngs
1 Mako Vunipola, 2 Jamie George, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 4 Courtney Lawes, 5 George Kruis, 6 Mark Wilson
7 Tom Curry, 8 Billy Vunipola
16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Ben Moon, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Joe Launchbury, 20 Nathan Hughes, 21 Dan Robson, 22 George Ford, 23 Jack Nowell
15 Yoann Huget, 14 Damian Penaud, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Geoffrey Doumayrou, 11 Gael Fickou, 10 Camille Lopez, 9 Morgan Parra
1 Jefferson Poirot, 2 Guilhem Guirado (captain), 3 Demba Bamba, 4 Sebastien Vahaamahina, 5 Felix Lambey, 6 Yacouba Camara, 7 Arthur Iturria, 8 Louis Picamoles
Replacements: 16 Pierre Bourgarit, 17 Dany Priso, 18 Dorian Aldegheri, 19 Paul Willemse, 20 Gregory Alldritt, 21 Antoine Dupont, 22 Romain Ntamack, 23 Thomas Ramos
Wales v England Preview – Principality Stadium, Saturday 23rd February 2019
England finished at 44-8, their biggest victory over France in a century, and an impressive follow-up to their 32-20 victory over grand-slam champions Ireland. Similarly, Wales won their 11th test on the trot in the Stadio Olimpico in Rome to equal their national record of 100 years. Two teams are about to collide, and both look to be on top form.
The clash features the only two unbeaten teams in the tournament, and will undoubtedly be one of the key moments in deciding the competition winner. England look to be on the warpath in this World Cup year, but Wales have beaten France and Italy back-to-back to see themselves in a narrow second place in the points table.
Despite England seeming the more dominant side in the matches so far, we haven’t had a chance to compare them like-for-like and Eddie Jones is taking no chances. “We’re playing the greatest Welsh side ever,” he said, “we’re going to have to be at our absolute best. Preparation starts on Wednesday.”
Jones remarks on the knowledge and experience of Wales head coach Warren Gatland, who he sees as a formidable force who has “been at the top of the tree in European rugby for the last 15 years.”
Despite the compliments, they seemed somewhat charged, with Jones reminding press of the comments made by Gatland last summer that the two teams were nowhere near each other in ability.
Gatland didn’t shy away from his low expectations of England prior to the tournament. He acknowledged that he thought “the decider might come down to that last game with Ireland,” and that he predicts Wales will see “no lack of motivation. It will be electric.”
No one can truly predict what will happen at the Principality Stadium. All we know is that one of these sides will be almost certain to win both the Triple Crown and the Grand Slam come the end of the Six Nations.
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