England v France – Sunday 15:00, ITV
Jacques Brunel replaced the struggling Guy Noves for Les Bleus in December 2017, but it seems it has brought about a decline in their performances. Their win percentage drops from 33% to 25% from their 12 matches under new management and letting that 16-point half time lead slip against Wales last time out could prove costly. Meanwhile, England put in their best performance under Eddie Jones at the Aviva and will certainly be taking the momentum into this fixture.
The Red Roses find themselves with four wins from their five matches since the start of the Autumn Internationals, as only New Zealand got the better of them by one point. In fact, apart from defeats to the two top ranked sides in the world last year, the Aussie coach has won all 17 of his home matches, with 14 coming against tier one opposition. Half of these victories saw them win by an 11-20 point margin and although they didn’t in the Le Crunch fixture here two years ago, that came in the opening round of this tournament which tends to produce tighter encounters.
The visitors’ only saving grace will be that Maro Itoje is out for at least the next two rounds but with Courtney Lawesin to replace him that is hardly too much of a downgrade. France have made six of their own changes for this clash as they resort to their more tried and tested options following humiliation against Wales. The standout sees Mathieu Bastareaud moving Romain Ntamack to the bench while Geoffrey Doumayrou pushes Wesley Fofana out the 23-man matchday squad in a completely changed midfield.
Brunel’s chargers haven’t won any of their five matches during his tenure, and with Twickenham next, we don’t like their chances of turning that form around. In fact, England have won nine of the last 12 meetings between the two sides in this competition with Les Bleus only having managed one success here in the Six Nations era, back in 2005. Indeed,
of the nine matches played on English soil, the hosts have averaged 2.9 tries per game with 22 of their 26 tries coming through the backline.
Therefore, we fancy Jonny May to touchdown. The flyer has crossed the whitewash in seven of his last nine matches for England and only marginally shorter than his colleagues, he looks the value bet.
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