England full-back Ben Foden has warned his team will be heading into the “danger zone” against France in Saturday’s Rugby World Cup quarter-final.
“France are going to be like a wounded animal. People expect them not to perform that well but that is when they are at their most dangerous. They’ve got players who are capable of causing carnage out there. They are a great team who can turn it on. It’s important we take it to them, really start the game with a bang and score some points in the first 20 minutes and let them know they are in a tough battle. It’s got to be our mentality to take the game to them.”
Tonga shocked France in their final pool game by winning 19-14, and there has been talk of a mutiny within the camp since after head coach Marc Lievremont publicly criticised his team.
“The Tonga match was a collective failure. We didn’t put enough heart into it and got things wrong. Now this match is behind us,” scrumhalf Dimitri Yachvili said. “The mood has changed a lot, we talked a lot together this week. We didn’t train for three months together to stop at the quarterfinal. We may never play again in the quarterfinal of the World Cup. That’s our motivation.”.
“Sometimes the French team gets the best out of itself when it has its back to the wall. I am convinced there will be a reaction and I hope it’s enough to get through this quarter-final.” Lievremont
In their own pool, England were forced to come from behind against both Argentina and Scotland but eventually found a way to win both games and ultimately finish as pool winners.
Looking at the form book, it is clear England have the upper hand over Les Bleus in past world cup match ups. England knocked France out of the 2003 and 2007 World Cups and they also triumphed in their latest encounter during the Six Nations in February.
France coach Marc Lievremont has made just two changes to the side that lost to Tonga.
Returning are prop Nicolas Mas who takes his place in the pack after missing three pool matches with a hamstring injury, while experienced loose forward Imanol Harinordoquy comes into the starting line-up at No. 8 in place of Raphael Lakafia. Lakafia is dropped from the match day squad altogether.
Nick Easter, Tom Palmer, Toby Flood and Mark Cueto have all been promoted to England’s starting line-up.
Easter and Palmer have replaced James Haskell and Courtney Lawes, and Flood will play at inside centre instead of the injured Mike Tindall.
The most intriguing switch is in midfield where Martin Johnson has preferred Flood to Shontayne Hape as Tindall’s replacement. It is the first time Flood and Jonny Wilkinson have featured in the same England starting line-up since the Six Nations win over Wales in February 2010.
“It is an exciting combination for us,” Martin Johnson said. “It gives us Toby’s kicking game and his passing game.
“Jonny has had a lot of long kicks and going into a game like this you do not want to be playing against Jonny Wilkinson.”
France starting line-up: M Medard, V Clerc, A Rougerie, M Mermoz, A Palisson, M Parra, D Yachvili; JB Poux, W Servat, N Mas, P Pape, L Nallet, T Dusautoir (capt), J Bonnaire, I Harinordoquy.
Replacements: D Szarzewski, F Barcella, J Pierre, L Picamoles, F Trinh-Duc, D Marty, C Heymans.
England: Foden; Ashton, Tuilagi, Flood, Cueto; Wilkinson, Youngs; Stevens, Thompson, Cole, Deacon, Palmer, Croft, Moody (capt), Easter.
Replacements Hartley, Corbisiero, Shaw, Lawes, Haskell, Wigglesworth, Banahan