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England v France 6 Nations: Why perennial bridesmaids England will finally make it to the altar

18 Mar | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
England v France 6 Nations: Why perennial bridesmaids England will finally make it to the altar

Super Saturday a real nailbiter with four teams still able to be crowned Six Nations champions.

WORLD Cup winner Mike Catt looked bewildered when I told him this week that he played in the last England team to win a Championship title on home soil.

“Really, did I?” said Catt, these days England’s skills coach. “That was when? 1996, wow, that is a long time ago.”

Nineteen years to be precise, since when England have won a World Cup and four Six Nations titles, but none of them at Twickenham. So Saturday is a special opportunity for Chris Robshaw’s team. One the captain insists they are ready for.

Well he would say that wouldn’t he. Anything else would be to admit defeat and professional sportsmen don’t make a habit of that. Particularly not the England skipper, six months out from a home World Cup.

England are odds-on favourites to lift the trophy on Saturday evening and it is certainly theirs to lose. Not only are they perched on top of the table, level with Ireland and Wales on six points but with a superior points difference.

They have home advantage for their final game, against France, whereas Ireland must hit the high road to play winless Scotland and Wales are marching on Rome to face Italy.

Added to that their game kicks off after both those matches have finished so they will know exactly what margin of victory is required for them to be crowned champions.

There is comfort too for England in the stats. Stuart Lancaster’s young side have scored more tries (11) in this tournament than Ireland (4) and Wales (5) combind.

And against France in the Six Nations they have won six of their last eight games, including the last four at Twickenham by points margins of eight, 24, eight and 10 respectively.

All of which guarantees precisely nothing. For all that they boast a 79 per cent win rate since Lancaster took charge, with 15 wins in 19 Championship games, they have yet to land the silverware.

Three years in a row they have finished runners-up, specialising in the sort of gallant failure Arsenal have turned into an art form in the Champions League.

So the pressure is on England and a points differential advantage of just four over Ireland and 25 over Wales is an insufficient buffer unless the Red Rose brigade turn up with their A game.

They will of course be heartened that Scotland beat Ireland (12-8) on their last meeting at Murrayfield two years ago – and a further cause for optimism is that the Scots need a victory to avoid the Wooden Spoon that their overall play scarcely merits.

They will also tell themselves that because Italy won away in Scotland, who had come so close to beating Wales at Murrayfield, there is no reason they can’t be competitive against Warren Gatland’s men.

My own thoughts are that Wales will put a big number on Italy and Ireland will beat the Scots by 6-10 points. That would leave England needing to not only beat France but to do so probably by a couplof scores.

That is not a given by any means. But this England group has served its apprenticeship in this championship. And providing they focus on the process rather than the outcome I take them to finally come out on top.

 

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