- Alex Goode looks back to Heineken Cup clashes against French teams
- We must concentrate for 80 minutes says Saracens full back
Saracens full back Alex Goode is yet to face France in his eight-game international career but having played against French opposition in the Heineken Cup the 24-year-old feels he has a grasp of what to expect against the most mercurial of European challenges.
A turbo-charged performance from the Clermont Auvergne pack shunted Saracens out at the quarter final stage last season and the away game this year at Racing Metro stands as an example of the unpredictability so often associated with French teams.
In an emotionally charged opening the hosts ran in three tries for a 19-6 lead within 22 minutes but the game then became notable for Racing indiscipline, presenting Owen Farrell with the opportunity to kick 10 penalties – a Heineken Cup record – as Saracens surged back to win 37-28.
Goode believes 80 minutes of complete concentration is a prerequisite against France, who beat Australia 33-6 and put 39 points on Argentina in the autumn, but then slipped to defeats to Italy and Wales in this year’s RBS 6 Nations.
“We’ve played against Clermont, Racing Metro and Toulon in the past and there’s an element of not knowing what is going to happen or which team is going to turn up,” he said. “We started well in the first game against Racing Metro [a 30-13 victory in Brussels], got on top and took it to them. But in the second game they started well, we made some mistakes and they scored three tries in 10 minutes. Any French opposition is dangerous and you must make sure you concentrate for 80 minutes.
“They’re going to come with a strong set piece game and some physical players but it’s about us setting the foundations early. Good defence, good kick-chase, strong set piece and then we can take it to them and attack with intent.”
Goode has started England’s last seven Tests and says a run of games is crucial to performing consistently at the top level. But far from feeling secure in the No.15 shirt Goode feels he must keep improving to resist the claims of a host of quality players vying for his position.
“It’s great for me personally to get a run in the team and showcase what I can do, not just in a one-off situation but in a few games and to try and get the best rugby out of me. It’s great in the wider group that there’s been consistency, which has helped us grow and understand each other.
“But you’re never settled in this squad. Elliot Daly has just been called up and he’s another person who’s been playing brilliantly in the Premiership at 15 so you’re always on your toes. And especially in my position when you’ve got Browny [Mike Brown], Fodes [Ben Foden] and now Daly. You know that you need to keep improving as individuals and as a collective, and none more so than myself at the moment.”
London Wasps' Daly is training with England this week as injury cover for Northampton Saints' Ben Foden. Similarly, Saracens pair Will Fraser and Joel Tomkins are also training at Pennyhill Park as injury cover for Ben Morgan and Jonathan Joseph respectively as Lancaster continues his policy of exposing promising young players to England training.