Simon Mail previews England's opening game in the Six Nations and thinks Eddie Jones' side will overcome France at Twickenham...
"England clinched the Grand Slam with a dominant 31-21 in France last season and this was their fifth win over them in the last seven meetings. It becomes even more encouraging at home where England have beaten France in the last five clashes at Twickenham."
England v France
Live on ITV
England come into this year's Six Nations with all the pressure and expectations on their shoulders after a sensational 2016. Eddie Jones' appointment has proved a masterstroke with the Australian guiding the team to wins in all 13 matches in charge. England surged to the Grand Slam last season so it is no surprise they are clear favourites to defend their title at 1.8810/11 on the Exchange.
But it is unlikely to be as straightforward this time particularly with England having been hit by several injury blows in the build-up to the competition. Chris Robshaw and Billy Vunipola will both miss the tournament while players such as Anthony Watson and Mako Vunipola are ruled out of the opening games due to injury.
England should be able to cope with these setbacks against the unconvincing French at Twickenham this weekend but they could take their toll as the competition progresses especially with a potentially decisive trip to Ireland on the final weekend. The side will also be targeted by their rivals and seen as prize scalps in the tournament.
Wing Elliot Daly has been selected for the opener with Jack Nowell starting on the bench. Saracens forward Maro Itoje starts his first Test on the flank and prop Joe Marler is fit to start after his exceptionally quick recovery from a fractured leg. The team features eight changes from the side which won in France back in March.
France have an awful lot of questions to answer and are not seen as realistic title contenders this season, fourth in the betting at 18.017/1. Les Bleus have failed to finish inside the top three of the competition in the last five years. France could only manage fifth place 12 months ago and Guy Noves faces a challenge to help mould his side into a genuine threat to England in this weekend's opener.
Noves suffered a setback leading up to the start of the tournament with centre Wesley Fofana ruled out of the competition after rupturing an Achilles tendon. It means Gael Fickou will stand in for him. Emerging talent Baptiste Serin, 22, will make his first Six Nations appearance after the scrum-half impressed during the November internationals.
England clinched the Grand Slam with a dominant 31-21 victory in France last season and this was their fifth win over them in the last seven meetings. It becomes even more encouraging at home where England have beaten France in the last five clashes at Twickenham. This underlines why the defending champions are such firm favourites to make a winning start.
Even with their recent injuries, England still have so much in their favour heading into this match. Jones' side have become a winning machine and it is unlikely their 100 per cent record under him will be halted this weekend. But six of their last eight defeats of France have been by 11 points or less so there could be some value in backing a narrow opening victory in their title defence.
Back England to win by 1-12 points @ 2/1 (Sportsbook)
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2016/17 Rugby P/L