Imago

Winner takes it all

Winner takes it all
By Eurosport

12/03/2006 at 15:24Updated

For once, France against England on Sunday will not be a grand slam-winning game nor even a Six Nations decider, but the result will be the pivotal game for both teams' seasons when they meet at teh Stade de France .

"The championship is still at stake and the team who win the game will take the upper hand."

England's coach Andy Robinson agreed. "We are both going into the game with the potential to win the championship," he said.

Both coaches refused to be negative about the surprise defeats they suffered in Scotland.

"We created eight opportunities but didn't take them," said Robinson. "It is something to be looked at. We were one pass away from scoring a number of tries but we are creating scoring opportunities."

Laporte, at least, recognised his team's shortcomings. "We were so hopeless at Murrayfield it was like a joke, but we have recovered our confidence," he said.

"The spirit of the players is very good and we proved in our first half against Ireland and our second half against Italy that we could play very well."

Yet for France fullback Thomas Castaignede, who plays club rugby in England with Saracens, Sunday's rivals are "two convalescent sides recovering from a bout of Scottish flu and who still have a chance of winning the championship as long as they don't lose."

Defeat would not necessarily rule out the title hopes of either side as the championship could still yet be won with six points, but it is not a scenario either side wants to consider at this stage.

SERIOUS BLOW

"We know what to expect, there will be a packs' battle of the greatest intensity. They will charge at us with all their power, playing a simple and direct game".

Laporte, too, was not expecting any surprises from the world champions, who have been predictable and uninspiring in their three previous championship games.

"They will try to put us under pressure and play for territorial advantage. They will be like a wall and we will have to be patient to move that wall," said the coach.

To combat England's power Laporte will field a highly experienced pack of forwards with six players over 30 and an average number of 57 caps against 38 for the England eight.

The difference will be even bigger for the front row with 63 caps on average for France and 28 for England.

Robinson, however, is more concerned by the threat of the French backs.

"They have real quality in the back line, if you drop off your concentration they can carve you apart," he said.

"Tactically, we have to be very astute, squeeze the life out of them and get the crowd on their backs. When we hear the fans whistling we'll know we're doing well."

Teams:

France: 15-Thomas Castaignede; 14-Aurelien Rougerie, 13-Florian Fritz, 12-Damien Traille, 11-Christophe Dominici; 10-Frederic Michalak, 9-Dimitri Yachvili; 8-Thomas Lievremont, 7-Olivier Magne, 6-Yannick Nyanga, 5-Jerome Thion, 4-Fabien Pelous (captain), 3-Pieter de Villiers, 2-Raphael Ibanez, 1-Sylvain Marconnet.
Replacements: 16-Dimitri Szarzewski, 17-Olivier Milloud, 18-Lionel Nallet, 19-Julien Bonnaire, 20-Jean-Baptiste Elissalde, 21-Ludovic Valbon, 22-Cedric Heymans.

England: 15-Josh Lewsey; 14-Mark Cueto, 13-Jamie Noon, 12-Mike Tindall, 11-Ben Cohen; 10-Charlie Hodgson, 9-Matt Dawson; 8-Martin Corry (captain), 7-Lewis Moody, 6-Joe Worsley, 5-Danny Grewcock, 4-Steve Borthwick, 3-Julian White, 2-Steve Thompson, 1-Matt Stevens.
Replacements: 16-Lee Mears, 17-Andy Sheridan, 18-Simon Shaw, 19-Lawrence Dallaglio, 20-Harry Ellis, 21-Andy Goode, 22-Tom Voyce.

Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland).

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