Simon Mail takes a look at England's first World Cup warm-up match and expects the hosts to have too much for France at Twickenham...
"England have won the last four games against France at Twickenham and there will be fond memories of the most recent clash in the Six Nations which was an absolute classic."
England v France
Saturday August 15, 20:00
Live on Sky Sports 1
With just over a month until the start of the World Cup, hosts England step up their preparation with a first warm-up game against France. For Stuart Lancaster this is a crucial time when he is looking at his options with a view to narrowing his squad down from 39 to 31 at the end of August. This weekend's game at Twickenham represents a big opportunity for several fringe players to try to cement a spot in the final group.
Expectations are high for England with only World Cup holders New Zealand ahead of them in the betting. Whether Lancaster's team can live up to this big billing is questionable but home advantage certainly gives them a significant advantage heading into next month's tournament.
There are only three more games for England to finalise their selection for the World Cup opener against Fiji on Friday, September 18. Home and away matches against France are followed by a clash with Six Nations champions Ireland at Twickenham at the start of next month so there are not many more chances for Lancaster to experiment.
England are in the toughest group with Australia and Wales also vying for places in the knockout stage of the World Cup. The Wallabies have put down a marker of their ability after wins over New Zealand and South Africa which secured the Rugby Championship. It sets up several mouthwatering pool matches at the start of the tournament and means the hosts will not be able to get away with below par performances.
The significant team news ahead of this weekend's game is the debut of Bath's Sam Burgess at centre. The former Great Britain rugby league star is running out of time to make an impression and needs a big performance to boost his hopes of making the final squad. Centre Henry Slade and flanker Calum Clark are the other debutants to start against France.
France have selected a side which contains plenty of experienced players such as scrum-half Morgan Parra and number eight Louis Picamoles. Hooker Dimitri Szarzewski captains France in the 100th international match against England. Philippe Saint-Andre is preparing for his last tournament in charge of the team and expectation levels are relatively low, due to their modest form, despite France reaching the final four years ago.
England have won the last four games against France at Twickenham and there will be fond memories of the most recent clash which was an absolute classic. Lancaster's side defeated their opponents 55-35 in March's Six Nations finale but still missed out on the title on points difference. England scored seven tries during this free-flowing match but this weekend's team has just two players in the side which started five months ago.
With so many changes to England's first choice side, it could be difficult for the hosts to produce great fluidity to their attack. Individuals will obviously be pressing their claim for a squad place but the level of team performance required in the World Cup may be unrealistic. France are always an unknown quantity, such is their lack of consistency, but England should have enough quality to win. Six of the last seven meetings have been settled by ten points or less so going for a small margin of victory appeals.
Back England to win by under 12.5 points at 2.427/5
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