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England's Steve Borthwick has a strategy to disrupt the imposing French players.
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England’s Steve Borthwick has a strategy to disrupt the imposing French players.


The English team doesn’t always have a better test record in France compared to the French team. However, they have had six wins and one close defeat in their seven World Cup matches in France within the last seven months, which gives them a good advantage going into the final weekend of the Six Nations. This is especially true as the French team has not been able to win in their previous three home games.

France hasn’t had a win on their home turf in an entire championship since 1999, back when the Five Nations existed. This may be why they have chosen to stick with the same 23 players for this weekend’s match, without any new additions. This suggests that France is approaching the game with determination, even if it may not have the same impact as past matches against England.

It has been quite some time since the previous match between these two teams at Twickenham, which took place a year ago. France did not simply defeat England; they dominated them to such an extent that the score of 53-10 could have been even more lopsided. Just like wine-making, not every rugby season can be exceptional, and Les Bleus have not performed well in the first three rounds.

There was a glimmer of promise in Cardiff, despite facing a weaker Welsh team who managed to exploit weaknesses in the French defense during the first half. This puts England in a strategic predicament. Should they disregard their previous exuberant performance at Twickenham and refrain from playing the fast-paced style of game that could favor their opponents? Or should they attempt to replicate their previous success and deliver more of the same dynamic gameplay?

The largely same-again nature of the red rose team sheet would suggest the latter and why not? France’s forwards are such massive individual units that logic dictates they need to be moved around. Get dragged into a slugfest and France’s behemoths will definitely lap it up; require their front five to do slightly more running and there is the potential for some defensive cavities to reappear.

Therefore, the decision to keep George Furbank on the team is designed to provide a boost in the full-back position. However, Steve Borthwick has chosen not to hand the No. 10 jersey to Marcus Smith at this time. A strong team requires someone to lead and guide them on the field, and taking away the role from George Ford after their recent victory against Ireland would also disrupt the cohesiveness that the management is striving to create.

England will benefit from having Smith, Danny Care, and Alex Dombrandt as strong backup options. They all come from the same club, Harlequins, and bring with them a wide range of skills. The addition of Manu Tuilagi, who is returning after missing previous games, adds even more power and impact to the team. Although Immanuel Feyi-Waboso will not be available, Tuilagi’s presence will still bring a powerful force to the game.

As several French teams are vying to have him on their roster next season, this may be Tuilagi’s final chance to play for the England team. It is also a chance to showcase his abilities to all those involved. It doesn’t take an expert in physics to predict that this will involve a significant amount of strength, but Borthwick also wants his team to use strategic thinking in order to counter France’s strength and speed. “Strategically, we want to ensure that we are effective in our actions so that we can limit their chances,” he stated.

France may have something to prove following their drawn game against Italy and underwhelming performance against Ireland. According to Borthwick, the physical aspect of test match rugby is a significant challenge, with South Africa and France being the toughest teams at the moment. The team has been preparing for their upcoming match against France and Borthwick is eager to see their progress.

The English team is also driven by their defeat at Twickenham last year. Former player Borthwick acknowledges that England was significantly behind other top teams in the world at that time. They have studied the other team’s strong strategic kicking, ability to dominate at the breakdown, and physical strength as they prepare for this game. Borthwick emphasizes the importance of learning and the team’s continuous efforts to learn from every experience.

The head coach, having been in the position for a considerable amount of time, understands that the strategy used against Ireland last week cannot be simply relied upon when facing France. It is crucial for the team’s progress that their successful performance against Ireland is not just a one-time occurrence, and that they do not become mentally reserved. Borthwick emphasizes that this is an ongoing message for the team; they can either let a mistake hold them back or choose to stick to their playstyle. At their previous match at Murrayfield, they dwelt on mistakes which resulted in more errors. Borthwick is working to shift their mindset.

Source: theguardian.com