England v France: Vulnerable hosts could struggle against dangerous opponents

Billy Vunipola
England suffered their second defeat of the Six Nations in Wales

England's Six Nations title defence is in tatters and Simon Mail thinks they could struggle against France at Twickenham...

"The last match between the teams offered a hint at the shift in the balance of power, with an understrength France side unlucky to lose 22-19 in sudden death to England at Twickenham in the Autumn Nations Cup final."

England v France
Saturday, 16:45
Live on ITV

England under pressure after Wales defeat

England's Six Nations title defence has been ruined after two defeats in their first three matches. Eddie Jones' side have been a major disappointment and failed to recover from their shock opening loss against Scotland at Twickenham. The champions will relinquish their crown and face another tough examination this weekend against unbeaten France.

After their setback against Scotland, England claimed a home win over bottom side Italy. But England's chances of back-to-back titles were crushed in Cardiff as they lost 40-24 to Wales. England's lack of discipline proved costly as they conceded 14 penalties against Wales.It continued their poor discipline with England penalised 41 times in their three matches.

England were undoubtedly on the end of some poor decisions against Wales with Owen Farrell right to be angered after referee Pascal Gauzere allowed the hosts to score from a quick penalty, despite asking the visiting captain to talk to his teammates.

But England must stop conceding so many penalties if they want to avoid another defeat.

Jones has made a bold decision by handing full-back Max Malins his first start for England. The 24-year-old is handed a big opportunity as he replaces Elliot Daly. Luke Cowan-Dickie is brought in for Jamie George at hooker with Charlie Ewels starting in the second row ahead of Jonny Hill. Wing Anthony Watson will earn his 50th cap this weekend.

france.jpg

France well rested after Scotland postponement

France are making great strides under Fabien Galthie and are in contention to win their first title since 2010. Opening wins over Italy and Ireland have set up their challenge this year although France are five points behind leaders Wales with a game in hand. France still have to play their home game against Scotland after it was postponed due to a Covid-19 outbreak. It means this will be their first match for almost a month.

The visitors are boosted by the return of powerful centre Virimi Vakatawa after he missed their first two games with a knee injury. Teddy Thomas is brought back into the backline for the injured Gabin Villiere. Romain Ntamack is named on the bench after recovering from a fractured jaw, with Matthieu Jalibert and Antoine Dupont renewing their half-back partnership.

The last match between the teams offered a hint at the shift in the balance of power, with an understrength France side unlucky to lose 22-19 in sudden death to England at Twickenham in the Autumn Nations Cup final. France were on the verge of winning until a last-minute try from Cowan-Dickie. It showed their strength of depth and France will head to marginal favourites England with confidence.

France also defeated England 24-17 in Paris in last season's Six Nations match. Les Bleus have won two of the last four meetings but it could so easily have been three, were it not for their agonising loss in December.

France will have no fears heading into this contest and the absence of a crowd will lessen England's advantage. England's air of invincibility was destroyed by Scotland last month and a strong France side look worth backing to claim a narrow win to boost their title hopes. Seven of the last eight games between the sides have been settled by no more than ten points.

There is plenty of attacking firepower on show this weekend and it could pay off to back two of the most dangerous wings to deliver the finishing touch. Jonny May has a superb record against France, scoring six tries in his last four appearances against them. Thomas is another potent finisher and has scored three tries in his last two starts for France. Backing both of them to score in this match is a generous Sportsbook OddsBoost at 10/1.

Follow Simon's bets on Twitter @watfordtipster

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