Rugby World Cup 2011: Quarter Final Preview, England vs France
Quarterfinal 2: England versus France at Auckland. Saturday October 8th, kick-off 8.30pm.
The second quarterfinal of Rugby World Cup 2011 features two teams who have failed to wow the audiences so far in the tournament, but have done enough to still be alive heading into the final three weeks.
England scraped through as winners of Pool B. Late tries were needed to pip Argentina and Scotland, while even minnow nation Georgia pushed them hard and stayed in the game until the second half.
Their one impressive outing was against lowly Romania, which doesn't bode well ahead of the playoffs.
But one could argue that they are doing what is needed to win. This is true, but they offer very little on attack, and will need to score points to win games when they come up against the world's heavyweights in the knockout stages.
Even their go-to kicking game has deserted them so far. However, they have made a significant selection for this game, which should see an improvement in their direction around the field. Jonny Wilkinson is retained at first-five, but the selectors have found room for another first-five in the squad, Toby Flood, who will play alongside him at second-five.
France, meanwhile, managed to get out of Pool A, despite losing two games and putting in some very ordinary performances.
Japan gave them a big fright in their opening game, but they got through unscathed before having a reasonably comfortable win over Canada.
They were then outplayed by the All Blacks and finished pool play by losing to Tonga—far from ideal preparation for the quarterfinals.
The French look out of ideas and will quickly need to find some form if they are to stay in the tournament. But as every rugby fan knows, you should never write off the French and their ability to produce a big performance when it matters.
They have stuck with their intriguing decision to play regular halfback Morgan Parra at first-five, and while the backs have yet to show much, they have the pace and flair in them if they can take their chances. The forward pack has a settled look about it, and will look to their dynamic loose forward trio to lead the way.
However, England should have enough to grind out another win if they are able to contain France and force them to play their way, and not allow them to play with flair and unpredictability.
Prediction: 19-12 to England
England: 1. Matt Stevens, 2. Steve Thompson, 3. Dan Cole, 4. Louis Deacon, 5. Tom Palmer, 6. Tom Croft, 7. Lewis Moody (c), 8. Nick Easter, 9. Ben Youngs, 10. Jonny Wilkinson, 11. Mark Cueto, 12. Toby Flood, 13. Manu Tuilagi, 14. Chris Ashton, 15. Ben Foden. Replacements: 16. Dylan Hartley, 17. Alex Corbisiero, 18. Courtney Lawes, 19. Simon Shaw, 20. James Haskell, 21. Richard Wigglesworth, 22. Matt Banahan.
France: 1. Jean-Baptiste Poux, 2. William Servat, 3. Nicolas Mas, 4. Pascal Pape, 5. Lionel Nallet, 6. Thierry Dusautoir (c), 7. Julien Bonnaire, 8. Imanol Harinordoquy, 9. Dimitri Yachvili, 10. Morgan Parra, 11. Alexis Palisson, 12. Maxime Mermoz, 13. Aurélien Rougerie, 14. Vincent Clerc, 15. Maxime Médard. Replacements: 16. Dimitri Szarzewski, 17. Fabien Barcella, 18. Julien Pierre, 19. Louis Picamoles, 20. Francois Trinh-Duc, 21. David Marty, 22. Cédric Heymans.
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