Le Crunch may have been denied some of its Grand Slam glamour thanks to a couple of dour French defeats, but there is still plenty of intrigue surrounding one of rugby's most intense rivalries. The French cross the Channel having made no less than eight changes to their team, and although this will disrupt fluency, it is a much stronger looking team than the one that has underperformed so spectacularly so far. England meanwhile are far more settled, and will bring huge amounts of confidence into the game.
England's Strengths/France's Weaknesses
Depth is the buzzword surrounding English rugby at the moment. For the first time in years England have a series of players in most positions who either have a proven international record already, or have bags of potential. The likes of Ben Foden, who not long ago was a guaranteed starter and now cannot even get in the squad, can attest to that.
On the bench you have Danny Care, James Haskell and Toby Flood - guys who have all had stints as first choice in their respective positions. Stuart Lancaster has shown a shrewdness in selection that means that these players will be champing at the bit to get their places back, hopefully raising the level of their performances. You need look no further than Dylan Hartley, who has been warming the bench but gets his chance this week after some impressive cameos, for proof. Tom Youngs now faces the challenge of getting his spot back. Such competition for places is something England can relish.
Owen Farrell is the form fly-half in the Northern Hemisphere. The man with ice in his veins is unfathomably cool under pressure, and France will know that any infringements will be punished. On that note, France's main weakness will be their togetherness. Eight changes is a lot to make, and although it looks a better team on paper they will be significantly less settled than the English outfit. England can look to exploit that rustiness in the opening exchanges.
France's Strengths/England's Weaknesses
Much to the chagrin of England fans, their two woeful losses have forced France to pick a very exciting team. The right players are now in the right positions. Morgan Parra and François Trinh-Duc represent the half-back partnership that led the French to a Grand Slam in 2010, and they will bring a degree of stability that has been glaringly lacking thus far.
Wesley Fofana, widely regarded as the best centre in the Northen Hemisphere, is finally playing in his preferred position, and his partnership with Mathieu Bastareaud, who has made the most metres in the competition despite only starting one game, could be explosive.
And perhaps most importantly, Thomas Domingo returns in the pack. This French pack has looked a shadow of years gone by, when going to Paris meant you knew you would be beaten up up front, and in the scrums especially. With the giant Yoann Maestri behind him, England's front five will have to be at their best.
You could argue that France are a team imponderable in themselves. Clichés abound in this area, but for good reason - genuinely, no-one knows which team is going to step out onto that turf. A much-changed line-up could result in a much-changed performance. On the other hand, the fact that they haven't played together could lead to a disjointed and stuttering performance, which a settled England team would feast on. You just never know with the French.
France will not be as bad as they have been in the opening two rounds - it is simply not possible. They have better players on the park, and they will be vastly more competitive. That could make an England victory all the more impressive. At home, with a cohesive team, they should sneak it.
England 22-19 France
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