- Mike Catt says England are up for physical confrontation
- Strength of squad has been key to success, says attack coach
Attacking Skills Coach Mike Catt believes that if England can win the physical battle and dominate the set piece against France on Saturday then the scoreline should look after itself.
England will go into the match at Twickenham unbeaten in this year’s RBS 6 Nations after wins over Scotland and Ireland, while France sit on the bottom of the points table with zero after losses to Italy and Wales.
However on Thursday France coach Phillipe Saint-Andre announced his starting XV, featuring eight changes from the side that lost to Wales two weeks ago. As the only team not to gain a win in this year’s RBS 6 Nations, it was unsurprising that the French coach opted for a combination of physicality and experience across his line up with the likes of Wesley Fofana, Mathieu Bastareaud, Morgan Parra and Yannick Nyanga all featuring.
Despite losing to both Italy and Wales, France have a reputation of producing performances in the face of adversity, such as their 33-6 thumping of Australia last autumn to break a seven-year losing streak against the Wallabies.
The set piece, in particular the line out, and the physicality of the French pack have been highlighted as key areas in the build up to the match. Les Bleus have achieved an 86 per cent success rate in the line out so far in the tournament and Catt knows that they are going to be up for it at Twickenham.
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“With the physicality it’s the be all and end all of the game,” he said. “France, when they trounced Australia in the autumn, they had five scrum penalties and dominated the line out as well so we have to make sure that does not happen to us. If we can get on the front foot I think we have shown against Scotland that we can produce the goods too and really make teams run around so it’s vital we get it right.
“They always talk about the French flair and what’s going to turn up but you look at that team and it’s full of quality. They got to a world cup final 18 months ago so they are not a bad side. There’s been a little bit of change but it’s a classic Six Nations match and has always been a massive physical battle. It’s always been a huge challenge for us and all in all it’s a great game in front of 82,000 very passionate rugby supporters now. It’s going to be a great spectacle.”
England’s success so far in the tournament has been attributed not only to the side’s ability to adapt to the conditions, but also due to the strength of the squad. Head Coach Stuart Lancaster has made three changes to the line-up for the French game, but so far in the tournament the bench has been well utilised and Catt says its creating a healthy competitiveness between the players.
“It’s the competition [for positions] that’s creating this consistency in performance amongst the players - the ability to man up and front up every weekend.
“We have had a good weeks training ,the boys are massively prepared I think they know exactly what’s coming from the French so we need to make sure we impose ourselves in the first 20 minutes and go from there.”