Paris - France coach Philippe Saint-Andre made no attempt to disguise his
reliance on size and strength when he named his team to face England in their
Six Nations opener on Saturday.
French flair might be noticeable by its absence at the Stade de France as
Saint-Andre will look to tackle the 'XV of the Rose' head on with all the
French might he can muster.
The signs were clear on his team-sheet revealed Thursday where the 2.05m
Alexandre Flanquart found his name listed at lock alongside captain and Stade
Francais team-mate Pascal Pape.
Power was in evidence right throughout the side with Toulouse colossus Louis
Picamoles at No.8 and Toulon battering ram Mathieu Bastereaud picked at outside
But it is also on the bench where Saint-Andre made his feelings known,
opting for six forwards and just two backs, proving he expects the match to be
won and lost in a bruising encounter up front, and it is there that he wants
the maximum number of options.
In selecting two back-row replacements he showed that the breakdown is where
he wants to have the greatest impact.
"The players have to be committed, to give everything; we need
audacity, generosity, discipline and a lot of combativity," said
"We need to be as precise as possible at the breakdown."
It's not just Saint-Andre that is looking primarily at the pack as former
England international and Toulon prop Andrew Sheridan also believes that will
be the key area.
"It's often very tight against France and these are huge matches for
the forwards," he said.
"That's often where the result is decided. There are a lot of scrums
and carried ball (by the forwards into contact), a bit like the Top 14.
"Against Wales, though, you have a more open game that's a lot more
If France can win the battle up front, they will be confident in their
ability to make inroads against England's inexperienced backs, for whom
Northampton centre Luther Burrell and Exeter wing Jack Nowell will be making
Gloucester wing Jonny May will be winning only his second cap while his
team-mate and inside centre Billy Twelvetrees will claim his ninth.
The combination of Burrell and Twelvetrees in midfield is particularly
surprising given that Manu Tuilagi is injured but the experienced Brad Barritt is
back from injury.
But while Twelvetrees can probably consider himself very much a potential
first-choice starter even with everyone fit, the selections of Burrell, Nowell
and May remain a surprise, particularly against traditionally England's
Yet England head coach Stuart Lancaster has no doubts that the trio are
ready for the occasion.
"The upside is that they have no fear. There is no fear factor that
sometimes can build during players' careers in international rugby," he
"Ultimately I've gone with my gut instinct, which was probably
formulated after watching training on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday last
"I had a bit of time to think about it over the weekend. Form,
potential and consistency of performance in the Premiership and Europe have
He added: "My instincts after the three days told me that Jack, Luther
and Jonny were ready."
It's a risk to take against the team being described in many quarters as the
favourites, just because this Six Nations falls in a post-British and Irish
Lions tour year.
France have won the last four championships (three Six Nations and one Five
Nations) following a Lions tour and you have to go back to 1994 the last time
they failed to do so.
But Saint-Andre, who trails 2-0 in his head-to-head record with Lancaster in
France-England ties, has laughed off such a notion.
"You can't be the favourites when you finished last in the 2013 Six
Nations! We are outsiders. The favourites are the Welsh and the English,"
Last year, England triumphed 23-13 at Twickenham having claimed a 24-22
success at the Stade de France in 2012.
France's last win over England was a 19-12 success in New Zealand in the
2011 World Cup quarter-finals, when Marc Lievremont and Martin Johnson were in
charge of the teams.
15- Brice Dulin, 14-Yoann Huget, 13-Mathieu Bastareaud, 12-Wesley Fofana, 11-Maxime Medard, 10-Jules Plisson, 9-Jean-Marc Doussain, 8-Louis Picamoles, 7-Bernard Leroux, 6-Yannick Nyanga, 5-Pascal Pape (captain), 4-Alexandre Flanquart, 3-Nicolas Mas, 2-Benjamin Kayser, 1-Thomas Domingo
Substitutes: 16-Dimitri Szarzewski, 17-Yannick Forestier, 18-Rabah Slimani, 19-Yoann Maestri, 20-Antoine Burban, 21-Damien Chouly, 22-Maxime Machenaud, 23-Gael Fickou
15-Mike Brown, 14-Jack Nowell, 13-Leroy Burrell, 12-Billy Twelvetrees, 11-Jonny May, 10-Owen Farrell, 9-Danny Care; 8-Billy Vunipola, 7-Chris Robshaw (captain), 6-Tom Wood, 5-Courtney Lawes, 4-Joe Launchbury, 3-Dan Cole, 2-Dylan Hartley, 1-Joe Marler.
Substitutes: 16-Tom Youngs, 17-Mako Vunipola, 18-Henry Thomas, 19-Dave Attwood, 20-Ben Morgan, 21-Lee Dickson 22-Brad Barritt, 23-Alex Goode