The RBS 6 Nations 2015 draws to a close with England v France at Twickenham this weekend – a showpiece game to end what has been an engrossing and fluctuating tournament.
By the time the game kicks off at 5pm, both teams will know what is needed of them to claim glory. France can still win the competition, but are relying on shock defeats for both Ireland and Wales and for themselves to beat England. England’s path to victory is less convoluted – simply win and outscore Wales and Ireland and the prize is theirs.
Stuart Lancaster’s men are in pole position, sitting top of the table on points difference (four better off than Ireland). That points difference will more than likely be absolutely crucial in the final reckoning. Many observers felt that England missed an opportunity last weekend when they beat Scotland. Despite overcoming the Auld enemy, many scoring opportunities were spurned, including two tries being chalked off following forward passes. The feeling now - as it was in the immediate aftermath – is that those misses could be costly.
The positive for England is that despite missing opportunities, they were able to make them in the first place. In the opening 10 minutes of the Scotland game, the performance was rampant – a marked improvement on the opening RBS 6 Nations games which have been notable for England’s slow starts.
France have been the great mystery of the competition. We have become so used to seeing the swashbuckling French teams of the past capable of brilliance or disaster that to see a more workmanlike set of performances is unsettling. The shift to functional rugby has not been a complete success - defeats to Ireland and Wales and victories over Scotland and Italy last time out leave them in a state of limbo.
The result against England could then have a big impact on the France we see return to English shores for the Rugby World Cup 2015 in September. A win on Saturday playing pragmatic rugby would justify the change and act as the model moving forward, while defeat and it could be back to the drawing board again.
France won the last meeting between the two in the 2014 6 Nations, while England triumphed in the last encounter at Twickenham in 2013. You have to go back to 2007 for the last French victory at HQ, when they ran out 15 – 21 winners.
Gilbert Rugby ambassadors Dylan Hartley and Thierry Dusautoir go head-to-head looking to end the championship on a high. Hartley will be hoping to ensure the set-piece leads to some crucial points for the home side, while Dusautoir – ever the inspirational figure – will be determined to spoil England’s party.
Can England get the win they need a claim the RBS 6 Nations crown? Let us know your thoughts – tweet us at @GILBERT_RUGBY
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