Six Nations – Preview – France vs England


Le Crunch is always among the most anticipated fixtures of the Guinness Men’s Six Nations and Saturday’s clash in Lyon has all the ingredients for another classic.

Two old rivals, with teams evenly matched, going head-to-head in a city hosting a Championship match for the first time, France vs England is the perfect way to close the 2024 tournament.

This year it has the added spice of, potentially, the title being up for grabs for England.

Considering they suffered their heaviest-ever home defeat to France just 12 months ago, imagine how sweet it would be for Steve Borthwick and his men to become champions in Les Bleus’ backyard.

Ireland could dash those hopes with a win or draw against Scotland earlier in the day and are the overwhelming favourites to become champions but, should they slip up and lose,

England is in a position to take advantage, which would likely require a bonus-point win.

The famous 23-22 win against Ireland last week has kept the team in contention, which in itself must be considered an achievement considering they won just two of five matches a year ago.

Many of England’s old guard remains, indeed Dan Cole and Danny Care, who scored tries when England last won away to France eight years ago to seal their last Grand Slam, are part of the matchday squad, but it’s the younger faces that have injected some much-needed impetus into the ranks.

Ben Earl, George Martin, Ollie Chessum, Immanuel Feyi-Waboso and Ollie Lawrence were all excellent against Ireland and England delivered a blueprint for what they hope can be a very bright future.

France is some way ahead in their development but, by their sky-high expectations, this has been a disappointing Championship.

Their title hopes went up in smoke against Italy in Round 3 - albeit, they are mathematically still in contention, while a win in Lyon could see them finish in the top two again, which they have done every year under head coach Fabien Galthié.

After romping to a bonus-point win in Cardiff last weekend, France's head coach Fabien Galthié has kept the faith with his entire matchday squad for the game with England.

That includes another start for exciting scrum-half Nolann Le Garrec, who impressed against Wales last weekend in his first start.

France head coach Fabien Galthié: “After the victory in Wales, our players have a new challenge to take on six days later against England.

“It's a different opponent and we will have to respond because we will find an explosive and powerful English team who can play by hand and use the boot.

“There will be a big battle in the contact area and we will have to be consistent and compact because it is an area that they will target.”

England has made just one change to the starting XV that defeated Ireland 23-22 at Twickenham last weekend with Elliot Daly coming into the team to replace the injured Feyi-Waboso.

Among the replacements, Manu Tuilagi is included in an England matchday 23 for the first time since the 2023 Rugby World Cup Bronze Final in Paris.

The centre joins Theo Dan, Joe Marler, Will Stuart, Ethan Roots, Alex Dombrandt, Danny Care and Marcus Smith to make up a strong and experienced bench.

England head coach Steve Borthwick said: “After such a hard-fought win against Ireland last week, we realise how important it is to back that performance up with another similar display in Lyon on Saturday.

“France remains one of the very top sides in the world and will pose a great challenge for us.

“We've had a great preparation so far this week and there is a genuine sense of anticipation and determination around the camp as we head to what will be an exciting final weekend.”


France: 15 Léo Barré, 14 Damian Penaud, 13 Gaël Fickou, 12 Nicolas Depoortère, 11 Louis Bielle-Biarrey, 10 Thomas Ramos, 9 Nolann Le Garrec; 1⁠ ⁠Cyril Baille, 2 Julien Marchand, 3 Uini Atonio, 4 Thibaud Flament, 5 Emmanuel Meafou, 6 François Cros, 7 Charles Ollivon, 8 Grégory Alldritt (c). Replacements: 16 Peato Mauvaka, 17 Sébastien Taofifenua, 18 Georges-Henri Colombe, 19 Romain Taofifenua, 20 Alexandre Roumat, 21 Paul Boudehent, 22 Maxime Lucu, 23 Yoram Moefana.

England: 15. George Furbank; 14. Tommy Freeman; 13. Henry Slade, 12. Ollie Lawrence; 11. Elliot Daly; 10. George Ford (vc), 9. Alex Mitchell; 1. Ellis Genge (vc), 2. Jamie George (c), 3. Dan Cole; 4. Maro Itoje (vc), 5. George Martin; 6. Ollie Chessum, 7. Sam Underhill, 8. Ben Earl. Replacements: 16. Theo Dan, 17. Joe Marler, 18. Will Stuart, 19. Ethan Roots, 20. Alex Dombrandt, 21. Danny Care, 22. Marcus Smith, 23. Manu Tuilagi.