England and France will lock horns for the second time in seven days this weekend, with the two longstanding rivals set to continue their preparations for the World Cup.
The Stade de France in Paris will play host to a hopeful home crowd, who’ll be desperate to avenge the 19-14 defeat they suffered at the hands of Stuart Lancaster’s men on Saturday. England will head into this one full of confidence and keen for a difficult test ahead of a World Cup in which big things will be expected.
It’ll be another excellent chance to run the rule over both sides with the major tournament creeping into view. Here’s a closer look at the teams coming into this clash, plus all the details you need on where to catch what should be an absorbing 80 minutes.
Date: Saturday, August 22
Time: 8 p.m. (BST), 9 p.m. (Local)
Live Stream: Sky Go (UK)
TV Info: Sky Sports (UK)
Lancaster Names Refreshed Squad for Paris Showdown
Just one player, winger Jonny May, will be in the XV that started against France at Twickenham, meaning there will be plenty looking to impress in order to cement their places in Lancaster’s World Cup plans.
Here’s a look at the team named by the England boss for this one, per the team’s official Twitter account:
The return of Mike Brown is what’ll excite the travelling supporters. The full-back has not featured for England since March, but before his injury, he was fast establishing himself as one of the standout No. 15’s in world rugby.
Brown’s dominance in the air, kicking accuracy and ability to surge from deep with the ball will give England a real assurance. After missing out last week at Twickenham, the return of skipper Chris Robshaw will also boost the England pack, who were a little hit-and-miss in the 19-14 win.
But with just one game remaining after this one before England get their World Cup started in earnest against Fiji, every player will be playing for their spot in the 31-man squad. Lancaster has admitted there will still be places up for grabs, per BBC Sport:
In terms of naming the 31, we're getting there. It’s been a very difficult selection process this week, I found it hard in a lot of ways.
What happens in the next two games will have a bearing, but what's happened over the past eight weeks will have a big bearing as well.
A couple of players who are in a precarious position at the moment are Luther Burrell and Danny Cipriani.
The former will start at centre in this one, and it’s a massive night for him. Burrell has major competition for a spot at the heart of England’s back line, especially after both Sam Burgess and Henry Slade shone in the clash against the French at Twickenham.
Chris Foy of the Daily Mail thinks that either Burrell or Slade will miss out, meaning the Northampton Saints man can do his chances plenty of good with a comprehensive display in Paris:
Cipriani will begin this one on the bench. There’s been a clamour for the fly-half to get more game time ever since he destroyed the Barbarians in England colours earlier this year. While it may not be the start Cipriani would have craved, if he is introduced against a tiring French side, he’ll get plenty of ball in hand and time to show his refined playmaking skills.
Sky Sports’ Rupert Cox had a unique take on the No. 10’s status in the squad:
France will be a team emboldened on home soil and are likely to bolster their own XV with some stellar names. They pushed England pretty close in the last match, and with a little more care in dangerous areas, they could have possibly stolen a victory. But with the tricolours waving and "Allez les Bleus" ringing out, they’ll up their game.
This is the kind of match in which England can really show their teeth ahead of the World Cup, and the XV named by Lancaster seems ideal for snatching a result on the road. The visitors will have to battle hard, but they’ll head back across the channel with a crucial win secured.
Prediction: France 18-21 England