The Rugby Club discusses the pressures on France and England to kick of their Six Nations campaigns with a bang

Last Updated: 31/01/14 10:49am

Who will be victorious in Paris?

There are high hopes for England to claim their first Grand Slam since 2003 which would set them up nicely for their summer tour to New Zealand and the 2015 World Cup.

While England seem to have a pack who can mix it up with the best of them, they seem to be stuttering behind their big men and Will Greenwood is hoping to see some huge improvements in that area.

"I want to see England with some appetite to play with the ball in hand and to look comfortable together."

Will Greenwood

"I want to see England with some appetite to play with the ball in hand and to look comfortable together," said Greenwood on The Rugby Club.

"I think the most important thing is for England to find a way to play behind a pack who can compete at a world level. But they need a backline behind them that can really trouble and can give them a B a C or a D option if the forwards hit a brick wall upfront and don't get that go forward.

"The problem for England is that clearly relies on Owen Farrell but he has got no caps around him, or he has players who are desperate to stay in the team. He has got no one to boot him up the backside and shout 'Get flatter', someone to really push him. Yes we can take the three points but to really push on they need to start scoring tries."

Former Ireland backrower Alan Quinlan agrees: "England certainly have the packs but they need to bring in some pace.

"They have the likes of Billy Vunipola, Chris Robsahw, Tom Woods and Joe Launchbury who can carry and win the set-piece but they need to get the ball outwide. England have struggled to play what is in front of them, they have come out with a structure to break teams down but when they come up against some resistance their game goes out the window. They need to play what is in front of them, trust themselves and play with a little bit of instinct."

Falling apart

Ryan Jones, who was part of Wales Six Nations winning team in 2011 and 2012 but is ruled out of this year's tournament due to injury, gave us some insight into how Wales handled England in last year's 30-3 demolition of their old foe.

"We saw 12 months ago that England came down with one game plan and we met that with a fantastic defence and their game fell apart," explained Jones.

"They did not have a plan B or C. Top level rugby is about having something else in your armoury. You have got to be competitive upfront and you have to have something behind you to take those opportunities. The best teams in the world - like New Zealand - get presented with an opportunity whether it is in minute one or minute 79 and they take it."

First up for England is against a France side who are desperate to make amends for last year's wooden spoon, and former Scotland scrum-half Rory Lawson says there are no excuses this time around for Philippe Saint Andre.

He said: "We are all wondering which French team will turn up, Philippe Saint Andre is saying all the right things in the press and they have had this unique two week window to prepare where he can take 23 players out of the Top 14 and keep them fresh. They have power guys like Picamoles and then the likes of Wesley Fofana who can create openings.

"There are no excuses from France this time around. I think the pressure is on and there is no way they can have the same result as last year. They are the great unknown and we will see. Going to Paris is tough though and they certainly have the ability."

No more flair?

Greenwood has been a bit confused by Saint Andre's selections but says in Fofana they have a man who can cause havoc to any defence.

"You can't get inside Saint Andre's mind - he has this idea about his No 9 but I still can't believe that Morgan Parra does not make it into his match day squad," added Greenwood.

"I feel at times France are totally focussed on that power game but if that does not work, and we have seen recently, then they go missing. The one thing they have got is the X-factor - Wesley Fofana is a miraculous player, how he can manufacture space from a half hole or a gap and then have the ability to offload is incredible."

Quinlan wants to see some of that flair returning to France but is not sure the pressure on getting results will allow that.

"Saint Andre has stopped these players from playing and expressing themselves and using that French flair that we have been used to seeing," Quinlan said. "He has restricted them. In the Top 14 they kicked a lot as well so there is huge frustration in France. They really need to hit the ground running, there is big pressure on France against England to get some winning momentum."