France with option of consistency ahead of England clash

France picked up their first win of the 2018 NatWest 6 Nations against Italy and they will be keen to build on that in Le Crunch against England on Saturday.

France picked up their first win of the 2018 NatWest 6 Nations against Italy and they will be keen to build on that in Le Crunch against England on Saturday.

Jacques Brunel is set to name his team for the game at the Stade de France first thing on Thursday, with few changes expected from the side that won in Marseille.

We have picked out some of the key decisions that the French coach faces.   STICK OR TWIST   According to the old adage ‘You don’t change a winning team’ and Brunel seems to have taken that to heart, selecting the same 31-man squad for the clash with England.

That would seem to indicate very little change to the matchday 23, a first for France in the campaign after the injuries against Ireland and the loss in Scotland.

The one intriguing position appears to be at full-back where Geoffrey Palis’ long kicking game could be invaluable.

Backs coach Jean-Baptiste Elissalde admitted after the Italy win that France’s territorial kicking game would have to improve, with Palis’ left boot an asset in that area.

However incumbent Hugo Bonneval, who scored a try in the Italy success, took his opportunity last time out.   KEEPING FRESH   While last week was a rest week in the Championship, a number of players were in action in the Top 14, including a few who had played against the Azzurri.

The most notable among them were Paul Gabrillagues, who played all 80 minutes on Sunday for Stade Français, Rémy Grosso, who did the same, and Dany Priso, who played 65 minutes.

The former two both started against Italy, while Priso has come off the bench in two games, so Brunel could be tempted to go with fresher options.

However, while this was more of an issue before the Italy game, the extra day’s preparation should help in that regard.   BENCH OPTIONS   With a full deck to choose from, Brunel could stick with the same 23 against the English, but if there are changes they may come among the replacements.

Adrien Pélissié has done well as hooker cover, but a fully fit Camille Chat will be pushing hard for inclusion.

The Racing 92 hooker was having a brilliant season until he was laid low by illness at the start of the campaign, but has since returned for his club.

Baptiste Couilloud made his debut off the bench against Italy, and appears to be in pole position at scrum-half, but Baptiste Serin provides a little more experience that could be useful against Eddie Jones’ side.   LE CRUNCH   France have lost four in a row in the Championship to England, with their last success coming in 2014 at the Stade de France.

On that occasion a certain Gaël Fickou was the man to come off the bench and score a match-winning try in the dying minutes.

Fickou was on the bench against Italy and could be again for this encounter, hoping for more late game heroics against the defending champions.

Meanwhile Mathieu Bastareaud was in the centres for France’s victory over England in 2010, which earned their last Grand Slam, and following his display in Marseille, the Toulon centre will be a big danger for the English in midfield.