Auckland - England hooker Steve Thompson is relishing the prospect of a brutal Rugby World Cup quarter-final with fierce rivals France at Eden Park on Saturday.
Thompson, England's most-capped hooker, says he can't wait to lock horns with the French forward pack in a battle to set a platform for victory into a third straight semi-final World Cup appearance.
"That's the good thing about playing France, you know it's going to be a good, physical contest, especially in the scrum, no one takes a backward step," the Saracens' number two said.
"You can really go at them because you know they're going to come at you. I'm really looking forward to it," the 2003 World Cup-winner added.
Thompson, who had a brief spell playing club rugby in France, doesn't hide the thrill he has in testing himself in the physical exchanges during a winner-take-all scrap with the French.
"We've got to start well, if you give the French team a sniff early doors, they'll be playing all game and they'll get on top of you and they've got some great players. We've got to start well," he said.
"It's just going to be really physical, isn’t it? In the scrums, line-outs, mauls, they're going to be chucking themselves about and that’s what we’ve got to do too.
"I don't expect anything less than that against the French. And when you look at the bench we've got, it's going to be pretty brutal on Saturday.
"But what do you expect from a France-England match in the quarter-final of the World Cup?"
It will be the 95th international between the two great Six Nations foes, with England winning 51, France 36 and seven drawn.
France are coming off a humiliating 19-14 defeat by Tonga last weekend and scrapped into the quarter-finals despite losing two of their four pool games.
"They've been a little bit up and down over the last few years and it's hard to play against them when they're like that," Thompson said.
"They're unpredictable, and when they play England, they always bring a good game, so that's what we’re looking forward to on Saturday."
England have yet to lose to France in three World Cup knockout matches.
The won the 1991 quarter-final (19-10), 2003 semi-final (24-7) and 2007 semi-final (14-9).
France beat England 19-9 in the third place playoff match at the 1995 World Cup in South Africa.