England entertain France in the Six Nations on Saturday, hoping the latest edition of ‘Le Crunch’ can give real lift-off to the Steve Borthwick era.
The Red Rose have bounced back from another sobering Calcutta Cup defeat by Scotland at Twickenham to register back-to-back victories over Italy and Wales, but now the true tests of their progress arrive as they face the world’s two top-ranked teams to close out the competition.
After dominating up front against the Azzurri and winning a gruelling kicking battle in Cardiff, England are now out to prove their attacking quality with the World Cup looming, with Marcus Smith orchestrating from fly half and captain Owen Farrell dropped for the first time since 2015. Ellis Genge skippers the team in his absence.
While France are still favourites, the Six Nations hasn’t quite gone to plan for them so far. After being run uncomfortably close by Italy in round one, the defending champions saw hopes of successive Grand Slams ruined by an epic defeat by Ireland in Dublin before being pushed hard in another thriller against Scotland in which both teams had a man sent off early and Les Bleus quickly raced into a 19-0 lead.
It’s far from panic stations for Fabien Galthie and Co, but they could do with another statement performance and result here to just quieten the growing murmurs of doubt with the pressure of a home World Cup coming quickly on the horizon.
England vs France date, kick-off time and venue
England vs France is the middle match on penultimate Six Nations weekend, coming after Italy have hosted Wales in Rome and before Scotland battle Ireland at Murrayfield.
The game kicks off at 4:45pm BST on Saturday March 11, 2023 at Twickenham Stadium in south-west London.
How to watch England vs France
TV channel: In the UK, England vs France is being broadcast live on ITV, with coverage beginning at 4:15pm.
Live stream: Fans can also catch the action as it happens live online via the ITVX app or ITV website.
LIVE coverage: Follow the game live via Standard Sport’s dedicated blog, including expert analysis from rugby correspondent Nick Purewal at Twickenham.
England vs France team news
Smith for Farrell is England’s only change from the team that started the 20-10 victory over troubled Wales in round three.
However, versatile forward David Ribbans also comes onto the bench to replace Northampton Saints team-mate Courtney Lawes, who will miss the remainder of the Six Nations with a shoulder injury.
France have restored powerful centre Jonathan Danty to their midfield with his knee issue now behind him, partnering Gael Fickou as Yoram Moefana drops to the bench.
The French have something of a selection crisis at tighthead with Uini Atonio and Mohamed Haouas both now banned, leading to a start for Toulouse’s Dorian Aldegheri.
Flanker Anthony Jelonch is missing with a serious knee injury, so Francois Cros deputises on the blindside. Replacement fly-half Matthieu Jalibert is also sidelined, leading to a place on the bench for Melvyn Jaminet.
England vs France lineups
England XV: Steward; Malins, Slade, Lawrence, Watson; Smith, Van Poortvliet; Genge (c), George, Sinckler; Itoje, Chessum; Ludlam, Willis, Dombrandt.
Replacements: Walker, M Vunipola, Cole, Ribbans, B Curry, Mitchell, Farrell, Arundell.
France XV: Ramos; Penaud, Fickou, Danty, Dumortier; Ntamack, Dupont (c); Baille, Marchand, Aldegheri; Flament, Willemse; Cros, Ollivon, Alldritt.
Replacements: Mauvaka, Wardi, Falatea, Taofifenua, Macalou, Lucu, Moefana, Jaminet.
England vs France head to head (h2h) history and results
France have not won at Twickenham in the Six Nations since all the way back in 2005. Their last win at English rugby headquarters was in a World Cup warm-up match in 2007.
England have won two of the last three meetings including the 2020 Autumn Nations Cup final thriller in extra-time, though went down 25-13 in Paris last year as their rivals sealed a first Grand Slam triumph for 12 years.
England wins: 60
France wins: 42
England vs France prediction
This is a must-win game for England of course if they want to keep their slim title dreams alive ahead of a daunting trip to Dublin on Super Saturday.
We’ve seen them utitlise their greatly-improved set-piece and then kicking game to decent effect in back-to-back wins, but now fans want to see Borthwick let the handbrake off and attack with verve and pace – something he very much intends to do if Smith’s selection is anything to go by.
There is an obvious danger in trying to go toe-to-toe with a team like France in such a manner – if the visitors click, they will strongly fancy their chances of coming out on top in a barnstormer.
However, their record at Twickenham is paltry and they have not looked the same formidable force of 2022 so far in this tournament.
England to win, by three points.
England vs France match odds
England to win: 6/5
France to win: 8/11
Odds via Betfair (subject to change).