France v England: Eddie Jones aims to gatecrash Grand Slam party

Courtney Lawes insists England are ready to feed off the emotion of a Paris crowd willing France to win the Grand Slam as he heaped pressure on the hosts.

England are aiming to ease the scrutiny of their under-fire head coach Eddie Jones by preventing Antoine Dupont’s favourites from claiming a first Championship title for 12 years.

Defeats by Scotland and Ireland limit their ambitions to finishing third, although if they are toppled at the Stade de France and results elsewhere on ‘Super Saturday’ go against them they will be staring at another disastrous fifth place.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Even without the title in their sights the stakes are high and not least for Jones, who will face renewed questions over his future just 18 months out from the World Cup should they end up in the bottom half of the table again.

Courtney Lawes of England gathers the ball during an England Captain's Run at Stade de France. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)Courtney Lawes of England gathers the ball during an England Captain's Run at Stade de France. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
Courtney Lawes of England gathers the ball during an England Captain's Run at Stade de France. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

But Lawes insists his team are ready to continue fighting for each other knowing they can play without the burden of expectation.

“It’s a very hostile crowd at the Stade de France and you have to be prepared for that,” England’s captain said.

“It’s part and parcel of playing away from home on the international stage, especially against a team going for the Grand Slam. That’s absolutely fine for us. We can use it for motivation and use it to give us energy.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“You have to change the mentality of the crowd. It was similar at Murrayfield where we were getting booed on the way in. You have got to prove these people wrong and essentially try to make them quiet.

England head coach Eddie Jones.   Picture: David Rogers/PA Wire.England head coach Eddie Jones.   Picture: David Rogers/PA Wire.
England head coach Eddie Jones. Picture: David Rogers/PA Wire.

“France are still playing to win the Championship, so essentially all the pressure is on them.

“We’ve got a game plan in place that we think is going to be very effective.

“For us, the power of playing for each other is the best motivation you can have as a rugby player. It’s the most consistent motivation, anyway.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“It’s perfect for us to go out there and show what it actually means to be part of this group and be able to play for England with boys like this.”

Needing to replenish depleted energy reserves after the monumental resistance displayed with 14 men against Ireland in round four, the squad have experienced a lighter training load this week.

It is hoped the adjustment, negotiated by Lawes on behalf of the squad, will enable them to carry the fight against France.

“We spoke to Eddie as a leadership group on Monday morning and just made sure he realised what an emotional hit it is to play a game where you have to give absolutely everything you’ve got,” Lawes said.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“We want to go out in the right way, we want to go out and perform this weekend. To do that you need to make sure you recharge, emotionally and mentally as well as physically.

“Eddie put a plan together, I put it across to the boys, we made a couple of tweaks and were off to the races. We’re really happy with how it went and hopefully it will bode well for us.

“To get back up emotionally after a game like Ireland actually takes a lot. If we were knocking each other about all through the week it’s going to be a lot harder to get up there emotionally for the weekend.

“In years gone by there wouldn’t have been that communication. It shows that we’re developing as a team and Eddie’s developing as a coach.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“We can all get our heads together and find the right plan, rather than just being told where to go.

“It’s a really effective way of being a team.”

France manager Raphael Ibanez insists England will still be defiant opponents in Paris.

Victory for Les Bleus over England would build on a successful autumn when New Zealand were dealt with convincingly, but Ibanez knows from his time at Wasps and as a hooker for France that England possess the heart that is occasionally lacking in his own national team.

“The 40-25 victory over the All Blacks in the autumn created a super dynamic at the heart of the side which has lasted,” Ibanez said.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“Now there is a match to play against an England side for whom – I can testify because I had the opportunity to live and play at the heart of domestic English rugby for six years – the absence of motivation does not exist.

“There is no lack of passion, which we sometimes have felt in French teams. All matches are important to them and it is that which makes them strong and tough to the point of being back breakingly so.”

How France handle the pressure will be key to their hopes and head coach Fabien Galthie insists they are ready to draw strength from previous setbacks.

“We have learned from our defeats,” he said. “Our runners-up places in the tournament have taught us an enormous amount.”

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.