Valiant England go down swinging in thrilling Six Nations defeat by France

Joe Marler of England embraces teammate Jamie George

This time it was a last-gasp heartbreak for England. The penalty from the half-way line from Thomas Ramos in the 80th minute snatched what would have been the most significant win of Steve Borthwick’s tenure, and a first against France on French soil since 2016.

And yet the overwhelming conclusion of this stunning and breath-taking finale to the Guinness Six Nations Championship is that England have finally rediscovered themselves, as their campaign drew to a close full of hope and excitement, outscoring France by four tries to three. No-one can doubt now that they are not on the right track.

The destination of the title may have been confirmed hours earlier, when Ireland were crowned as champions following their victory over Scotland in Dublin but it was the Le Crunch that stole the honours in this utterly compelling final chapter of Super Saturday.

Steve Borthwick’s side finish their campaign as the only side to have defeated Ireland, and looked to have secured second place in the championship when Tommy Freeman crossed for a try in the 76th minute, with George Ford, on his 31st birthday, brilliantly landing the touchline conversion to give England the lead in a game when both sides would have felt they had created enough opportunities to win the game several times over.

It was that kind of night. The atmosphere in the Groupama Stadium in Lyon was intoxicating as France and their supporters finally seemed to break free from the shackles of their World Cup hangover.

England may have lost, but showed resilience, intensity and endeavour to back up their victory over Ireland against a French side laced with power. New players have been blooded, new heroes created and if it is to be the final chapter of a new of senior England players such as Danny Care, Manu Tuilagi, Dan Cole and Joe Marler, there is at last a credible vision of the future.

Ben Earl was outstanding again, spearheading a sensational blitz of three tries in seven minutes either side of half-time, with a brace of tries by Ollie Lawrence and one by Marcus Smith to turn the game on its head after France had raced to what had appeared to be a match-winning 16-3 lead just before the interval.

Maro Itoje has rediscovered his marauding self, George Martin relished the dogfight with France’s heavyweight pack, Henry Slade’s midfield distribution has given England’s attack a new edge while Tommy Freeman has delivered on the potential first seen by Eddie Jones two years ago. And what of Ollie Lawrence? If Tuilagi is to head to France next season, Lawrence has established himself as England’s new midfield warrior.

Even the disruption caused by a calf injury to George Furbank that forced him out of the contest in the eighth minute, with Smith resuming his World Cup position at full-back, did not disrupt England’s attacking verve.

England’s review of the contest will highlight critical mistakes that undid their brilliant effort. It was Earl’s no-arms tackle in the final play that conceded the match-winning penalty, bringing back memories of Handre Pollard’s long-range penalty that condemned England to defeat in the World Cup semi-final in Paris last October.

A penalty conceded by Smith for a challenge in the air on Thomas Ramos that gave France the platform to seize back the moment with a try by Leo Barre after France had once again turned to their pack for some heavyweight driving play.

An overthrown line-out by England then allowed France to reclaim the lead and as Ramos reacted first, hacking the ball deep and into space enabling Penaud to gather and put Fickou over.

Costly errors that effectively let France back into a game but the abiding memory is the way that England lifted themselves so magnificently when the game already looked to be drifting beyond their reach.

France had dominated the first half hour, launching their huge forwards with pick-and-goes and one-out runners, negating England’s blitz defence. Their decision to throw the ball to the front of the line-out, eluding England’s defensive pods, also proved effective by their ability to jump-start driving mauls, making hard yards before quickly moving the point of contact, generating quick ruck ball to keep England on the back foot.

Ford and Ramos exchanged penalties when France erupted back into life, adding to the long list of glorious tries that have lit up Le Crunch.

France picked off an England line-out, Gael Fickou made the initial break before the centre’s sumptuous offload put Nolann Le Garrec over for a stunning score.

England were rocked and when Penaud picked up and burst clear from the base of a defensive ruck, the French crowd erupted as he dashed 50 metres before kicking ahead and forcing Smith to carry the ball over his line. Two more penalties by Ramos turned the screw.

England simply had to score next to stop the game drifting beyond their reach and critically it came just before half-time. A well-executed launch play from a line-out brought England into the French 22, and after twice opting to kick two penalties to the corner, their risk and resilience was rewarded when Ollie Lawrence scythed through to score under the posts, with Ford adding the simple conversion.

Remarkably England’s blitz of scoring continued, with a breath-taking succession of attacks from the restart, with Ben Earl spearheading the charge. The England No 8 burst into life, twice carrying hard in a sweeping move that culminated in a second try for Lawrence to turn the game on its head, with Ford’s second conversion reclaiming the lead.

With England moving the ball with speed and precision, France’s defence was carved open again and again, with Ramos frequently exposed. A midfield bust and swift hands put Freeman shooting up the touchline and if his inside ball and found the two support runners a second try third try was beckoning.

Now it was France who were creaking under the pressure, and England’s speed of thought and distribution struck again, from another line-out launch play, with Earl again breaking clear in the midfield and this time Smith hitting his shoulder to surge clear from a third try in seven minutes.

France’s double strike turned the game again, but once again England  responded in a manner that was unthinkable during the dark days of last year, shipping 50 points in this fixture at Twickenham. But it was France and Ramos, who stole the honours.

Scoring sequence

0-3 Ford pen, 3-3 Ramos pen, 8-3 Le Garrec try, 10-3 Ramos con, 13-3 Ramos pen, 16-3 Ramos pen, 16-8 Lawrence try, 16-10 Ford con, 16-15 Lawrence try, 16-17 Ford con, 16-22 Smith try, 16-24 Ford con, 21-24 Barre try, 23-24 Ramos con, 28-24 Fickou try, 30-24 Ramos con, 30-29 Freeman try, 30-31 Ford con, 33-31 Ramos pen,

France v England: As it happened

10:23 PM GMT

The decisive moment

Harsh on England?

10:15 PM GMT

Shaun Edwards speaks to ITV - ‘That was the worst defensive display since I arrived in France’

“Our attack was great but I was very disappointed with the defence. You should not have to score 30 points to win a Test match. Our midfield [was where the problem was] we were missing tackles. We need to sort that out - it was the worst defensive display since I arrived in France.”

10:10 PM GMT

Brian Moore’s verdict - ‘England have made progress this Six Nations’

10:08 PM GMT

Steve Borthwick speaks to ITV - ‘I am proud of the players’

On the emotions in the camp...

“I am really disappointed for the players - they worked so hard. I am proud they’ve worked hard to progress.”

On the performance...

“Sometimes you just have to stay in the fight - they boys did well. Ultimately we ran out of time. When you play like that you don’t actually lose, you just run out of time.”

On England’s Six Nations...

“I’ll review the tournament properly, I’ll take my time...but what we’ve shown over the past two weeks is that we can take on the top-four teams. But we don’t just want to compete, we want to win.”

10:00 PM GMT

Who shone during defeat to France?

Here are the player ratings from Lyon after a memorable match.

READ: Player ratings: England’s Ollie Chessum takes the fight to France

Ollie Chessum
Rising high: Ollie Chessum - Getty Images/Olivier Chassingnole

09:57 PM GMT

Jamie George speaks to ITV - ‘We’re a team on an upward curve’

On the emotions after the defeat...

“Devastating - similar to the last time we were in France against South Africa [in the World Cup]. France showed their class but we are a team definitely on an upward curve.”

On the performance...

“Way we came out after the break we were impressive we put France under a lot of pressure but fair play to them they show their class and fair play to Ramos for slotting that over.”

On the championship...

“We let ourselves down against Scotland. But [today] we gave it a good go, our scrum and set piece held up well. I’ve loved the last seven weeks.”

09:53 PM GMT

Data Insights from Sage

09:48 PM GMT

FULL-TIME: France 33 England 31

England cannot win the ball from the restart and France manage to see the game out in the last 40 seconds.

Brilliant match to finish the championship. Both sides contributed to that - bravo to both. France found the reserves to pip England who played some outstanding stuff and finish in third place with their victors tonight in second.

09:45 PM GMT

Penalty for France!

France 33 England 31

Ramos missed the previous kick but he doesn’t miss this - it easily has the legs and France are two points up with less than a minute to go.

09:44 PM GMT

78 mins: France 30 England 31

France are in the England half they are keeping the ball alive knowing they have an advantage for a no-arms tackle by Earl (I think...). They go back for the penalty and Ramos will have a go for goal from the halfway. Big moment coming up...

09:43 PM GMT

76 mins: France 30 England 31

What a brilliant match - what character and what attacking verve from England.

09:42 PM GMT


France 30 England 31

What hands! Brilliant from Ford - he’s up flat and makes a lovely pass that sucks in the France defence, Smith does equally well to set up Freeman who scores in the corner - remarkable stuff. Ford then makes the conversion from the right touchline and England now have a one-point lead.

09:39 PM GMT

73 mins: France 30 England 24

England are struggling to get into the French half - not ideal when six points behind. As I type that they do boot it long but France win the line out before Donbrandt turns the ball over - will that prove to be vital? Ford finds touch and England will have a line out 13 metres out.

09:37 PM GMT

71 mins: France 30 England 24

Collector’s item as Ramos misses - his first of the match. That will give England some hope they can win this.

09:36 PM GMT

69 mins: France 30 England 24

It’s been a fine response from France after those trio of England tries either side of the break. They have a line out on the England 22, big moment for the visitors. France move the ball down the line after the set piece and it looks as though Freeman turns the ball over and is free BUT he knocked on in the process and France will have a shock to see them opt for the points. Ramos hasn’t missed a thing and if successful here the hosts will be at least two score ahead.

09:32 PM GMT

Data Insights from Sage

09:32 PM GMT

67 mins: France 30 England 24

Knock on from England after a kick through from Barre. The advantage is over when the hosts kick long.

09:29 PM GMT

65 mins: France 30 England 24

England are trying to slow France down at the breakdown. A big last 15 minutes in prospect.

09:27 PM GMT

62 mins: France 30 England 24

It’s England who need to take stock now - having been eight points up they are now six behind. They need the next score, you suspect.

09:26 PM GMT


France 30 England 24

England shoot themselves in the foot and hand France this score. It’s a line out and it’s thrown long and loose. Ramos is the first to react and kicks long. It falls to Penaud who plays in Fickou who runs over the line unopposed - Lyon is now rocking and France are in front once again. Ramos adds the extras - he’s not missed a thing today.

09:23 PM GMT

59 mins: France 23 England 24

On comes Manu Tuilagi - not a bad player to bring on with 20 minutes to go. Will this be his last appearance in an England shirt?

09:21 PM GMT

Here’s the fine Smith try

09:20 PM GMT


France 23 England 24

France have possession for what seems like the first time this half. They are on the front foot again, England are under heavywieght pressure and they cannot hold out as having barged holes with the big men they throw it wide and Le Garrec and Ollivon find Barre who goes over from close range. Ramos adds the extras and we now have a one-point game. What a match we have on our hands.

09:17 PM GMT

52 mins: France 16 England 24

Ford’s controlled the game well so far - to think that some called for him to be dropped for Smith. He’s answered those critics well.

09:14 PM GMT

France stunned

You know how I wrote that England had to bring energy and momentum into the second half?

Well, tipping the game on its head is certainly one way to do that. France are stunned, rattled.

Can England see it home from here?

09:14 PM GMT

50 mins: France 16 England 24

Changes as the visitors replace their front row - Genge has had a great game.

France need to get the ball and put England under pressure - it’s been all the visitors since the break.

09:11 PM GMT


France 16 England 24

Great score as they throw to the back of a line out on half way. They move the ball into the midfield where Genge pops the ball to Early who makes 10 yards or so before passing to an on-rushing Smith who goes over the line for England’s third try in six minutes - what a turnaround! Ford adds the two and the visitors now have an eight-point lead.

Marcus SMith
Marcus SMith

09:08 PM GMT

44 mins: France 16 England 17

That try illustrates that England, as an attacking force, are getting better every game. That was a lovely flat pass from Slade that set the move up. As I type England are nearly in again, they’re in the France 22 thanks to a Northampton combination, Mitchell going down the blind side freeing Freeman, who then passes to a French pair of hands. So close...

09:06 PM GMT


France 16 England 17

Decent start from England to the second half, Freeman is set free on the right thanks to a lovely pass from Slade, I think, they then move the ball inside and Ben Earl then breaks free. France just about stop the England No.8 but it only momentarily prevents a score as Lawrence crosses the whitewash for the second time. What a way to start the second 40. Ford adds the extras and the visitors are back ahead.

09:02 PM GMT

40 mins: France 16 England 10

They’re back under way in Lyon, just 40 minutes left of this year’s championship, can England end on a high? We’re about to find out.

08:57 PM GMT

A big 40 minutes coming up for England

Salvation. A glimmer of hope for England at the end of the first half.

And boy was it needed. Ollie Lawrence’s score on the stroke of half-time has visibly lifted the English mood, with Steve Borthwick’s charges jogging purposefully down the tunnel. England did significantly disrupt France in that half and did not deserve a 13-point half-time deficit. Thankfully, Borthwick’s side found something.

England navigated the opening quarter successfully, and were good value for their three-point lead. Ellis Genge got an unexpected edge over France’s behemoth tighthead Uini Atonio twice in succession but a sensational, sweeping score from France scrum-half Nolann Le Garrec, with Léo Barré leaving the English backs for dead in the build-up, put the wind in French sails. Thomas Ramos kicked two more penalties to leave England staring down a half-time barrel, but Lawrence got England back in it.

The visitors must take that momentum and energy into the second half. An early French score could give England too much of a mountain to climb but England are right in this. Trailing by six points at half-time in France is no shame but the next 40 minutes are crucial in how the English public judge this Six Nations campaign.

Ollie Lawrence scores for England against France
Ollie Lawrence's try has giving England momentum heading into the second half - PA/Andrew Matthews

08:52 PM GMT

Here’s England’s try

08:51 PM GMT

Data Insights from Sage

08:49 PM GMT

HALF-TIME: France 16 England 10

England needed that score just before the break. A six-point deficit much more palatable than a 13-point one. France have been good and made more line breaks and may well think they should be further ahead. But England are well in this match and will be hoping to keep their discipline better in the second-half.

08:47 PM GMT


France 16 England 10

This time England create a driving maul, France defend well until they are penalised for being offside - Ollivon and Atonio the culprits.

They again kick for touch, before moving the ball left - it’s just what England needed, and it’s poor French defending as Lawrence goes under the posts, Fickou’s missed tackle will doubtless incur the wrath of Shaun Edwards.

08:43 PM GMT

37 mins: France 16 England 3

Good attacking platform for England - a line out in the France 22. They go to Itoje and win a penalty. They kick for touch and will have another go, this time from five yards out.

08:42 PM GMT

Penalty for France

France 16 England 3

The hosts again opt to go for the points and Ramos is looking good - he’s not missed.

08:41 PM GMT

Spider-cam shock

And if you hadn’t seen enough of hardened objects crashing into things equally as hard this evening, the spider-cam has just collided with the posts, sending them ricocheting in their stands. Thankfully, there was no toppling.

Back to the rugby and it looks as simple as England needing to score next. French tails are up here in Lyon.

08:40 PM GMT

35 mins: France 10 England 3

England are offside and gift France another penalty - the visitors need to keep their cool here, they are making too many silly errors.

08:38 PM GMT

34 mins: France 10 England 3

France have made 300 metres to England’s 166 and have four line breaks to England’s one, and they have been big line breaks.

08:37 PM GMT

Penalty for France

France 13 England 3

Ramos has his kicking boots on today, he slots that through the uprights from near the left flank.

08:36 PM GMT

29 mins: France 10 England 3

France are looking good and earn a penalty with England being their own worst enemies at the moment, Slade defending on his own making it all too easy for the hosts. They decide to go the the points, aiming for a 10-point lead.

08:34 PM GMT

27 mins: France 10 England 3

Ben Earl does well to chase down a kick, but is unlucky that it falls into the hands of Penaud. I say ‘into the hands’ but it’s only for a second at the France wing then knocks on, had he not succumbed to an episode of butterfingers England were in trouble there.

08:31 PM GMT

25 mins: France 10 England 3

From the set piece Alldritt picks up from the base of the scrum, they keep it tight before Ramos tries his luck with a crossfield kick for Penaud. England defended that scrum really well.

08:29 PM GMT

24 mins: France 10 England 3

France break clear inside their own half once again - Penaud notices he’s got pace outside and kicks long. Smith does just about enough to get there first. But he’s adjudged to have carried it over the line and so France will have a five-metre scrum. Another big moment coming up...

08:27 PM GMT

Sit back and enjoy this wonderful try

08:26 PM GMT

Data Insights from Sage

08:26 PM GMT


France 10 England 3

That is an incredible score and French brilliance. It starts with them stealing possession at the line out in their own half. They move the ball down the line at pace - it’s turnover ball so England aren’t marking the outside channel and the hosts exploit it brilliantly as they get wide and makes yards with ease on the left. Everyone hits the ball at pace, they then move inside and Le Garrec finishes the move under the posts - lovely score. Ramos adds the extras and the stadium is rocking once again.

08:21 PM GMT

Penalty for France

France 3 England 3 

The hosts are level as Ramos slots the kick from all of 40 yards or so.

08:20 PM GMT

15 mins: France 0 England 3

England have quietened Lyon down thanks to their solid, impressive start. As I type that they concede a penalty for holding on, Smith is the culprit and the hosts decide to go for the points...

08:19 PM GMT

England have weathered the early French storm well

Francois Cros is well dealt with by the England defence
Francois Cros is well dealt with by the England defence - AFP/Olivier Chassignole

08:17 PM GMT

12 mins: France 0 England 3

England are coping more than well with the France scrum - the hosts are penalised for going too early.

08:15 PM GMT

Penalty for England

France 0 England 3

Birthday boy Ford slots the penalty through the posts and the visitors have an early lead.

08:14 PM GMT

9 mins: France 0 England 0

Ford puts in a big up and under and France are offside and it will be an England scrum. From the set piece England are rock solid and England win a penalty Atonio the offending player. England decide to go for the points...

08:10 PM GMT

7 mins: France 0 England 0

From the resulting line out England defend well, they are up fast and cause a French error. Meanwhile, it looks as though Furbank’s game is already over. It seems he done something to his right calf. Smith is coming on at 15. Furbank’s been brilliant for England and he’s a big loss.

08:08 PM GMT

5 mins: France 0 England 0

Penaud gets in a big hit on Lawrence and France will have another line out. They go to the front and England are penalised as they struggle with the French maul. The hosts though Ramos kick for touch and they’ll have another line out on the outskirts of the England 22.

08:06 PM GMT

4 mins: France 0 England 0

France set up a maul from a line out in their half and it’s impressive as the big men make 20 yards or so.

08:05 PM GMT

3 mins: France 0 England 0

Two turnovers in a matter of seconds leads to the first scrum of the match. Big moment coming up...It’s France’s put in, and they win - solid scrum from both sides.

08:03 PM GMT

2 mins: France 0 England 0

Great work from Itoje nearly steals the ball for England but France just about retain possession. They’re on the attack England are being hit by big cannonballs early on, but the move comes to an end with the hosts on the edge of the England 22 as Ramos kicks out on the full. Until that error France were impressive.

08:01 PM GMT

1 min: France 0 England 0

They’re under way - after a false start of all thing... - in Lyon can England back up their win over Ireland with another ‘W’ and good performance?

07:58 PM GMT

National anthem time

Two good renditions delivered with gusto. I have to admit it, I am a huge fan of La Marseillaise, and the fans in Lyon belt it out loud proud.

The Groupama Stadium might be barely clinging on to Lyon’s city limits, in the outer suburb of Decines-Charpieu, but the nighttime atmosphere is sufficiently intense for the master of ceremonies to be losing his voice already. France have been forced out on the road this year due to the Stade de France’s mobilisation for the Paris Olympics this summer, and there is much to recommend the approach. A memory endures of how loud Manchester was for England at the 2015 World Cup, even for the grisliest of dead rubbers against Uruguay.

07:55 PM GMT

The teams are out on the pitch

It’s a raucous welcome they get in Lyon.

07:50 PM GMT

The French are in good voice

And the atmosphere is bouncing in Lyon.

French fans
French fans
French fans
French fans

07:44 PM GMT

Pass of the Six Nations?

I’m going to say ‘without a doubt’!

07:33 PM GMT

Steve Borthwick speaks to ITV - ‘We want to build on last week’

On what he’s looking for...

“We want to make sure that the intensity [is there] we want to build on last week’s win.”

On facing France...

“I think we’ve seen progress. We wanted to see how we match up against the best teams in the world and tonight is another one of those opportunities.”

07:28 PM GMT

Joy of six for Ireland

07:24 PM GMT

England players looking calm ahead of the storm

Danny Care and Ellis Genge arrive at the Groupama Stadium
Danny Care and Ellis Genge arrive at the Groupama Stadium - Getty Images/Dan Mullan
Marcus Smith
Marcus Smith in 'the zone' ahead of kick-off - Reuters/Denis Balibouse
Jamie George
Jamie George samples the atmosphere in Lyon - Getty Images/Dan Mullan

07:13 PM GMT

A reminder that Ireland have already won the title

07:12 PM GMT

How to face the huge French pack

It will be one of the questions Steve Borthwick’s side will have to answer this evening. England’s maul and scrum will be challenged for the whole 80 minutes in Lyon, with France boasting the four heaviest players taking to the pitch tonight.

Here’s Charlie Morgan on how England can combat the big French.

READ: French pack is massive – so here is how England should deal with it

07:05 PM GMT

Fans get in the mood

A France fan in fancy dress - magnifique!
A France fan in fancy dress - magnifique! - PA/Andrew Matthews
A marching band in Lyon
France fans making some noise - PA/Andrew Matthews

06:53 PM GMT

Ireland have won the title

Thanks to a 17-13 win over Scotland in Dublin. That means any faint hopes France and England had of getting their mitts on the trophy have well and truly been kicked into touch.

06:50 PM GMT

Last year’s match

Was a humdinger, if you’re French, and haunting if you’re English.

Steve Borthwick’s side were subjected to their heaviest ever home defeat as Les Bleus dominated in a 53-10 victory at Twickenham. The French were simply outstanding, they dominated the breakdown, most of the collisions and everything flowed from there.

This was a peach of a try from Penaud and summed up the France display.

06:30 PM GMT

Fancy a flutter?

Having a punt? First take a look at these Six Nations betting offers and free bets.

06:29 PM GMT

More on the England XV

George Ford continues at fly-half as England keep faith with the side that stunned Ireland.

Steve Borthwick has made only one enforced change, choosing Elliot Daly to replace the injured Immanuel Feyi-Waboso, who reported concussion symptoms incurred against Ireland.

Tommy Freeman, on his first international start, will wear the No 14 jersey while Manu Tuilagi makes his first appearance of the Six Nations after taking Daly’s place on the bench. The match will be Tuilagi’s first for England since last autumn’s World Cup bronze medal match, having missed the opening rounds because of a groin problem.

Ford has held off the challenge of Marcus Smith to retain the fly-half duties. Smith kicked the last-gasp drop goal that sank Ireland 23-22 last Saturday and made a telling contribution off the bench, bring extra zip to England’s attack after Ford had pulled the strings effectively earlier on.

A second change among the replacements sees Ethan Roots replace calf injury victim Chandler Cunningham-South.

ENGLAND XV: Furbank; Freeman, Slade, Lawrence, Daly; Ford, Mitchell; Genge, George (capt), Cole, Itoje, Martin, Chessum, Underhill, Earl.

Replacements: Dan, Marler, Stuart, Roots, Dombrandt, Care, M Smith, Tuilagi.

George Ford
George Ford has held off the challenge of Marcus Smith and starts at 10 this evening - Getty Images/Alex Davidson

06:22 PM GMT

How they line up

FRANCE XV TO FACE ENGLAND: Barre; Penaud, Fickou, Depoortere, Bielle-Biarrey; Ramos, Le Garrec; Baille, Marchand, Atonio, Flament, Meafou, Cros, Ollivon, Alldritt (capt).

Replacements: Mauvaka, S Taofifenua, Colombe, R Taofifenua, Roumat, Boudehent, Lucu, Moefana.

ENGLAND XV TO FACE FRANCE: Furbank; Freeman, Slade, Lawrence, Daly; Ford, Mitchell; Genge, George (capt), Cole, Itoje, Martin, Chessum, Underhill, Earl.

Replacements: Dan, Marler, Stuart, Roots, Dombrandt, Care, M Smith, Tuilagi.

06:18 PM GMT

No flash in the pan?

For England the aim is simple, back up the memorable win against Ireland with another victory and performance to prove that it wasn’t just an unexpected flash in the pan and that under Steve Borthwick they have a template and plan that can regularly beat the world’s best.

One way to do that is make sure any complacency is kicked firmly into touch and that is something not lost on the captain, Jamie George.

“We got some things really right emotionally last week in the build-up and probably a lot of that came from sticking two fingers up to some people who were saying some bad things about us after the Scotland game,” George said.

“Steve [Borthwick] is very conscious of [the complacency]. I learned a big lesson in 2019 after the New Zealand performance around things like emotional highs and lows. Saturday [against Ireland] was probably as emotional a performance as we’ve had since 2019. What I’ve learned is that if you try and convince yourself that you’re fine, you’re going to feel fine, physically you’re going to be fine – then realistically you’re not.”

England come up against a France 23 unchanged for the first time since 2019, after Fabien Galthié resisted the temptation to tinker with the squad that beat Wales last week meaning England know what they’re up against: power.

In Cardiff the France coach picked the big (as in really huge) men and it is the same today for the always much-anticipated battle against the English. Emmanuel Meafou, the 145kg Toulouse second row, is set to win his second cap, scrummaging behind the similarly bulky Uini Atonio. They are likely to be replaced by Georges-Henri Colombe and Romain Taofifénua, who come in at a equally heavy 140kg, will replace them at tighthead prop and lock respectively.

Outside them they have panache to compliment the power. Nolann Le Garrec, Nicolas Depoortère, Louis Bielle-Biarrey and Léo Barré all retain their spots in the XV but after missing the victory over Wales with a chest infection, Posolo Tuilagi misses out on a chance to take on his uncle, Manu.

Galthe is only too aware that their power will be met by a similarly beefy England.

“We are going to encounter an explosive English team. Powerful and solid... with this switching between playing the ball in hand and kicking, this pressure that they put on the opposition,” the France coach said. “We need to be more precise [than we were against Wales] in certain areas, notably defence. We’ll have to be compact and solid in the physical exchanges. England hit hard in the middle of the pitch and we’ll have to be switched on to that, certainly more than we were against Wales.”

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