Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

England Take Running Game to France as They Bid to Win Grand Slam in Style

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

England Take Running Game to France as They Bid to Win Grand Slam in Style

Article excerpt

Byline: Chris Jones Rugby Correspondent

WHEN you strip away the controversy surrounding prop Joe Marler, it is clear that Eddie Jones intends to run France off their feet in Paris on Saturday in an attempt to win England their first Grand Slam since 2003.

The decision to drop Marler, put Mako Vunipola into the No1 jersey and give the scrum-half role to Danny Care sends out a clear message to the French, who have two wins and two defeats in their first Six Nations under new coach Guy Noves.

By sticking with Marler, England's astute head coach could have thrown down a scrummaging challenge to the big French pack and by supplementing the forward effort with Ben Youngs' excellent tactical kicking, the Six Nations champions could have played a structured game at the Stade de France and waited for the home team to hand Owen Farrell penalty kicking chances to secure the Slam.

However, Jones has no intention of playing the pragmatist in Paris and wants his players to claim a first Slam for 13 years with the kind of rugby that will help them become serious contenders at the 2019 World Cup.

That is why Vunipola, the older of the two brothers, will be tasked with not only holding his own in the scrums but adding an extra ball carrier to take some of the pressure off brother Billy, who has been outstanding at No8.

Once the England forwards have forced the French to commit numbers to halt the big ball carriers, Jones will expect Care to use his blistering pace and quick pass to initiate a running game that will ask serious questions of the defence.

Jones wants the big French forwards to be gasping for air from the early stages of a first half that looks certain to be the most dynamic England have unleashed on any opposition in this campaign.

France will recognise what Jones is planning and will have no option but to turn the forward battle into an arm wrestle, slow the ball down and use the boot to pin England deep in their half. They will want to force England into a kicking battle and a more structured contest, which is against the nature of French rugby.

The major problem for France is that under Noves, the former Toulouse coach, they operate an off-loading game that is high risk and requires outstanding ball handling skills. …

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