Eddie Jones believes that England have prepared better for Sunday’s match against France at Twickenham than they did for last year’s World Cup final against South Africa in Japan. The England head coach has no truck with the notion that victory in the final of the Autumn Nations Cup is a formality, given that France have picked their second-most inexperienced XV ever with just 68 caps while Jones has been able to make just one change in a starting team featuring a record 813 caps. The disparity in experience has come about due to a pre-tournament agreement in France over player release. Raphael Ibanez, the France manager, said on Friday that he understood why this situation had been depicted in England as “a farce”. Jones is determined to avoid any complacency, however, instructing his players to “attack the week”, and not be “content just to get through it”, as they were in the build-up to that shattering reverse against South Arica in Yokohama. “We didn’t attack the week [in Japan] like we normally do,” said Jones, who has replaced the injured Jonathan Joseph with fit-again Anthony Watson. “In the week of the World Cup final, we were probably more content about just getting through the week. We were underprepared, whereas we have had a peaking week this week, the right balance in terms of physical and recovery. I probably reflect on that World Cup final week every day. “When you lose a big final it stays with you for a long time. You never put it to bed. The result is what it is. It doesn’t go away and causes you to reflect.
Baptiste Couilloud may have ended up being France captain one day whatever happened. The Lyon scrum-half seems to have the temperament and work ethic to make it to the top. But even Yann Roubert, the chairman of LOU Rugby where Couilloud plays in France, admits that the 23-year-old leading out France against England on Sunday is an eyebrow raiser. "It's a little bit of a surprise, but there is great pride and happiness for him at LOU Rugby," Roubert tells Telegraph Sport. "I am pretty sure this is the first time a player from the club has captained France. We are very happy for Baptiste, for sure." Couilloud, winning his fifth cap, is France's third new starting scrum-half in as many weeks, with Antoine Dupont and Baptiste Serin, who captained the team to victory over Italy last week, unavailable for selection. Couilloud's task, facing England at Twickenham, is a considerably trickier challenge. He is the definition of a homegrown player; born in Lyon, joining the club's academy at the age of six and remaining there ever since. Lyon might be an established force now in France - they were second last season before the 2019-20 campaign was cancelled due to Covid-19 - but this is just their fifth season back in the top flight. Couilloud was part of the club's promotion run back in 2015-16 and scored 10 tries in the 2017-18 Top 14 season, before going on to captain the club. "He has been here forever. He joined the école de rugby at the age of five or six and it’s a big joy not only for the club as a whole, but all his former coaches from the junior ranks through to the professional level," Roubert adds.
The inaugural Autumn Nations Cup finishes with England facing fellow pool winners France in a Twickenham final on Sunday in front of 2,000 spectators -- the first time since the coronavirus pandemic that fans have been let into the ground.