England host France this Sunday afternoon at Twickenham in what promises to be an intriguing clash. France will be looking to bounce back after a disappointing loss to Wales last week, while England will be looking to back-up a hugely impressive win over reigning champions Ireland.
In the match last year, the French shocked England 22-16 and will be looking for a repeat performance this year. For England, it is all about consistency. After last weeks showing many have them as grand slam favourites and although the French will be a tough test, it is a game they should be winning.
While England have minimised changes, the French have changed plenty – most noticeably bringing their 120kg centre, Mathieu Bastareaud, back into the starting team. Both teams are filled with players with flair, physicality and game-changers, in a game that could really spark to life. Here are the battles that could decide the game:
Billy Vunipola v Louis Picamoles
This could be the battle of the game. Both players are the talismans of each side, whoever carries the best, will go a long way to deciding the game.
Ben Youngs v Morgan Parra
The two nines are both vitally important in controlling their teams. Parra lost control last week during the French implosion, he’ll need to improve to get one over the in-form Youngs.
George Kruis v Sébastien Vahaamahina
The engines of the packs. Kruis dominated the Irish line-out last week, he may have lost his partner, Itoje, but expect more of the same. How Vahaamahina comes back from that pass will be fascinating to watch.
Manu Tuilagi v Mathieu Bastareaud
The collisions will be colossal. Rumours Bastareaud is back in the team to counter Tuilagi, he will have a busy afternoon against the destructive Leicester man.
Mako Vunipola v Demba Bamba
Experience v youth. Bamba will have his hands full against the world class Vunipola. But do not count out the young man, if he rises to the occasion, he could steal the show.
Tom Curry v Arthur Iturria
Both playing seven, yet two completely different styles. Curry has had an excellent short international career so far and could cause the French all kinds of trouble. Iturria will have his hands full.
Owen Farrell v Camille Lopez
Farrell is Englands captain and best player and after besting Sexton last week will be confident. Lopez is no walkover though and has the potential to win any game on his own.
Jamie George v Guilhem Guirado
Possibly the battle of the two best hookers in the Six Nations. Both fantastic around the park but in a game where set piece could be crucial, it will be their throwing that will be tested.
Chris Ashton v Gael Fickou
Two players that have been drafted into the starting teams. Ashton is a try scorer and the centre-turned-winger, Fickou, could have his defence tested throughout.
Or finishers as England call them. Both sides have some great players off the bench. If it is tight towards the end, whichever teams’ substitutions make the bigger impact could decide it.
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