STAR PREVIEW: England v France

UPDATE

England’s game against France on Saturday in the Rugby World Cup has been cancelled due to the approach of Super Typhoon Hagibis, World Rugby has confirmed.

The teams were due to play their final group game in Yokohama, Japan, which would have decided who topped Pool C.

Instead, the match will be registered as a scoreless draw, meaning England proceed to the quarter finals as group winners, with France finishing second.

England’s World Cup began in earnest when they beat Argentina 39-10 on Saturday but that contest was an anti-climax and their clash against France should provide a better signal of where they’re at as they aim for glory.

The clash against Argentina was expected to be a better test of where they’re at rather than their wins against Tonga and the USA, but when Tomás Lavanini became the fifth player to be sent off in this World Cup – and another player slow to fall foul of the directive to tackle below the neck and shoulders – the game was pretty much ended as a contest and England eventually won easily.

The decision for the visitors to start with Benjamin Urdapilleta was not vindicated as the fly-half, unable to threaten England’s gainline, put in a haphazard performance, and after tries for Jonny May, Elliot Daly and Ben Youngs, England were never in real danger. T

If one could nit-pick at the performance, the slump in energy levels when a more subdued second half was a worry, but the impressive impact of Jack Nowell and Luke Cowan-Dickie, both of whom scored tries in the second half, should provide major encouragement and it looks as if the backline operates at its best with two playmakers in the shape of George Ford, who is having a fine tournament, and also Owen Farrell at 12.

A bigger worry for this weekend is the outcome of tests on Billy Vunipola’s injured ankle, a possible consequence of the 26-year-old starting his 12th straight match, and seventh in two months, on Saturday; But England are confident of having him for the knockouts and maybe testing Mark Wilson could prove to be a benefit.

France are also unbeaten, and in the quarter-finals after surviving a fightback from Tonga in another close game between the two. The French were 17-0 up at half time, having played some sublime rugby with Virimi Vakatawa and Alivereti Raka proving almost unplayable as the halfback combination of Romain Ntamack and Baptiste Serin also proved to be extremely effective.

It will be interesting to see what team Jacques Brunel goes with, as he made 11 changes to his side to face Tonga after they’d previously beaten the USA 33-9, with just four days between the two. It’s not impossible to see him reverting to the side he named to face Argentina in the opener, which consisted of Medard, Penaud, Fickou, Vakatawa, Huget, Ntamack and Dupont in the backs, a frontrow of Poirot, Guirado, Slimani, and a pack of Iturria, Vahaamahina, Lauret, Ollivon, and Alldritt.

There have been some murmurings that defeat in this game might be the best option for each side, to avoid facing New Zealand in the quarter-finals. It is unlikely that Eddie Jones will let England take the handbrake off, however, and the pressure on both sides for a big performance in such a rivalry will be immense.

England v France
Rugby World Cup 2019 Pool C,
Yokohama, Saturday October 12
09:15 Kick-Off (UK Time) Live on ITV1 HD & ITV Hub

HEAD TO HEAD RECORD
(Maximum 10 matches, Since 2000)
FEB 2019 SIX NATIONS England 44-8 France
MAR 2018 SIX NATIONS France 22-16 England
FEB 2017 SIX NATIONS England 19-16 France
MAR 2016 SIX NATIONS France 21-31 England
AUG 2015 RUGBY WORLD CUP WARM UPS France 25-20 England
AUG 2015 RUGBY WORLD CUP WARM UPS England 19-14 France
MAR 2015 SIX NATIONS England 55-35 France
FEB 2014 SIX NATIONS France 26-24 England
FEB 2013 SIX NATIONS England 23-13 France
MAR 2012 SIX NATIONS France 22-24 France

England have the recent upper hand in Le Crunch, although it’s usually been won by the home side. On a neutral ground England look to be the right favourites, although the margin of 14 points for the handicap is hard to read. England should be good enough, but France, if they play to their best, can stay within that level.

RECOMMENDED BETS (scale of 1-100 points)
BACK FRANCE +14 5 pt at 5/6 with starsports.bet


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