England may not have played to their potential against France but Stuart Barnes and Will Greenwood were left impressed with their calmness and control
Stuart Barnes, Dewi Morris and Will Greenwood assess England's performances in the Six Nations so far.
Last Updated: 06/03/13 12:21pm
Ten years on from their last clean sweep, England are just two games away from a Grand Slam with victories over Scotland, Ireland and France.
With Italy and a potential Triple Crown and Championship decider against Wales to come, Stuart Lancaster's men are growing in confidence. Each victory has come about in different circumstances and Will Greenwood says that while their latest win over France was not their best, they would have learnt an awful lot about themselves.
"England dodged a bullet against France," said Greenwood on Rugby Club.
"We have seen a variety of performances in their last few wins - against Scotland they came out and played them off their park and their game plan worked perfectly. In Dublin the rain came down and they kept Ireland at arm's length; they jabbed and moved, jabbed and moved. It was only 12-6 but it was a controlled win.
"Against France, well suddenly you saw a side who I felt were thinking about results as opposed to performance. They were edgy early on, the error count was high, they were going for big hits - France are big so we have got to smash them.
"Then, and I'm not sure which player it was but you picked it up on the refs microphone around the 44th minute - someone said 'calm boys, calm'. They got back into it and in the end England looked in control - but Saint-André did make some terrible substitutions though. However playing badly compared to their high standards and still winning says as much about this side as their controlled performance in Dublin."
Stuart Barnes was also impressed with the way England kept their calm despite some ferocious French physicality.
"England's performance against France is not a cause for concern at all," explained Barnes on Rugby Club.
"The one thing I would also say is that games are not just won on the field. I think the England management absolutely pulverised their French counterparts. Philippe Saint-André got things very wrong with his bench, Stuart Lancaster got it right. Tom Youngs and Mako Vunipola in particular gave them an edge.
"I think some of the England players were shocked physically by some of the French players - they were not quite ready for the big hits and people like Joe Launchbury and Geoff Parling were rocked backwards for a bit. They lost their shape but they never lost their mind and their calm and that is what impressed me most. It is good to not play well and win these games and I think Italy will be the perfect antidote for that."
Dewi Morris points to the changes that Saint-André made as the turning point for England and believes that there would have been some frustrated Frenchman in the changing room after the game.
"For France Wesley Fofana and Louis Picamoles really caught my eye," he said. "Picamoles carried the ball more than any other No.8 in the Six Nations while Fofana scored one of those wonder tries. For 50 minutes they had England on toast, then Saint-André takes two of the front row off and puts a puppet in at No.10!
"If I was in the France changing room after the game with my red win and my Gauloise I would have had a word with Saint-André! Stuart and Will are right but Saint-André helped England not to panic and the impact from the both benches came to the fore."