If you were to look at the statistics from Le Crunch in isolation, with zero knowledge of the scoreline – then many of them would suggest it was a close game.
The Championship’s official stats providers AWS have run the numbers from Sunday’s Twickenham clash and found the following:
England only made three line breaks to France’s nine
England were forced to make more tackles than France (210 to 148) at a lower completion rate (87%-89%)
The penalty count was even as well, both teams conceding six over the 80 minutes.
Four of the top five metre-makers in the game were wearing blue
And yet, despite those somewhat surprising stats, England ran in six tries to France’s one, cruised to a bonus-point before half time and eventually wrapped up their biggest win over Les Bleus in 100 years with a 44-8 triumph.
So where was the damage done?
THE KICKING GAME
All six of England’s tries were either a direct, or indirect, results of England’s sublime tactical kicking.
Time and again Owen Farrell, Ben Youngs and the rest of the England back line – much like they had in Dublin the week before – turned the French back three around and found Twickenham turf.
That left Jonny May the freedom of South West London to cruise in for a first-half hat-trick. And the stats do not make for pretty reading as England found France’s weakness and turned the screw.
Farrell kicked for a whopping 589.3 metres on the day, nearly double the next most by a player on either team. He was making 36.8 metres for his team on every kick and he did it time and time again, his 16 kicks from hand comfortably the most from either team.
Ben Youngs led the way on short tactical kicks with nine as England constantly managed to recover their own ball on clever nudges and nurdles.
The best stat to illustrate this England tendency to let the ball do the work for them was that May had a hat-trick by half-time and yet had not carried for more than 10 metres in the entire first 40 minutes.
England enjoyed 61% of the territory in the game, a number that would have been higher but for France’s late, ultimately futile, push for a consolation.
Throw in the fact that England were making ground in an impressive 57% of their hit-ups and it is easy to see how France were forced to narrow their defence to suck up the pressure from the English forwards but that left space in behind and in the wide channels.
Courtney Lawes got the plaudits on the weekend, and rightly so after his fine all-round display.
The Saints lock ruled the skies with five lineout takes on his own ball, and even more impressively two steals on the French throw as England appeared to cope comfortably in Maro Itoje’s absence.
Lawes’ eye-catching stop of Mathieu Bastareaud certainly shook up the crowd but he also made a tackle break on a carry, only Kyle Sinckler with two managed more for England.
BACK ROW BLEND
Mako Vunipola’s stat-stuffing in Dublin took the plaudits last weekend, meaning Mark Wilson’s absurd contributions were put somewhat in the shade.
Mako was at it again this weekend with 11 tackles and ten carries before injury and withdrawal in just 44 minutes.
But there was no doubting Wilson’s contribution this time – the blindside led England in tackles (23), tackle assists (7), own ruck arrivals (33) and clear-outs (19).
His tireless efforts did not stop there, he also chipped in with a breakdown steal, and appears to be dovetailing nicely with Tom Curry on the openside.
Like any good No.7, Curry also managed a breakdown steal, and arrived more than any other player on the pitch at opposition rucks (13) to make a nuisance of himself.
It was a difficult defeat to take for France but the impact of Antoine Dupont from the bench was a real positive.
In only 34 minutes of playing time, the replacement No.9 provided a genuine spark.
He made three line breaks in that time, the most of any player – let alone replacement – in the entire match, while carrying for 91m with ball in hand.
That number was more than any England player totalled in the game and his two tackle breaks and four offloads were also top of the charts.
He appears to be knocking hard on the door to replace Morgan Parra as France’s No.9 – how much longer can Jacques Brunel ignore him?