Having never played under any of the other contenders I am in no position to comment on them, but I can say I have been very impressed with Stuart. I think he’s done a great job so far.
I believe all the players are behind Stuart and we would be very pleased if he, and indeed the whole coaching staff, were given the chance to continue in their roles beyond the RBS 6 Nations.
He has facilitated a change of culture within the squad. He has been brave in team selections – as I found out when I lost my place against Wales – but he’s made some big decisions and stuck by them. In a short space of time he has moulded a team who have exceeded outside expectations from a group with very little collective international experience.
I feel he has earned the right to carry on and finish what he has started.
Tomorrow is a massive game for Stuart, but not just for him, for the coaches, for us as players, for English rugby and for French rugby as well.
Ok, there’s no longer a grand slam on the line, but don’t let that fool you into thinking there won’t be anything at stake. Whenever these two teams meet it’s a massive game, particularly for the French on home soil. As players you don’t really talk about the grand slam, that’s for other people to do. Our job is to focus on each game as it comes.
It doesn’t make us any less motivated, and in fact with us going into the game on the back of a defeat and France having drawn against Ireland last time out, both teams will be hugely motivated to get the win.
Coming back into the team in time to play France is great. After missing the game against Wales I’m relishing the chance to get on the field and make an impression.
I know a lot of the boys we’ll be playing against; Pascal Pape, Dimitri Swarzeski and Julien Dupuy are among my team-mates at Stade Francais and I played alongside Lionel Beauxis for two seasons before he left for Toulouse. It’s good to see Julien back after a long time out as he is a quality player. There won’t be too much pre-game sledging between us; they speak little English and my banter is bad enough in English let alone French, but I want to return to that Stade dressing room a victor.
France showed against Ireland in the second half how strong their forwards are. They kept the ball tight and I expect the same again tomorrow. They’ll play a conservative game against us.
Philipe Sainte-Andre has said he has picked Beauxis for his kicking game. France will look to dominate in the forwards and their backs will be dangerous when counter-attacking.
We know they’ll be strong up front so we’ve spent a lot of time on that area of the game this week.
I would recommend coming over to France to play rugby. Sampling the lifestyle, learning a different style of rugby, enjoying the culture – it’s all part of the experience. I’m returning at the end of the season to rejoin Wasps but playing in France has been a wonderful experience.
I was lucky to have the best of both worlds; playing in France and playing for England, which will soon be no longer possible.
Tom Palmer and the Yorkshire Post are supporting RBS RugbyForce, the community rugby programme that is improving club facilities across the nation. To find out more or register your rugby club for the RBS RugbyForce Weekend on June 2 and 3, visit www.rbs.com/rugbyforce.