Rampant England break French resistance
The break in Six Nations action couldn’t have come at a worse time for in-form England. For the second week in a row, they produced a stunning spectacle of rugby. A hat-trick from Jonny May helped England to an easy 44-8 victory over France.
There was always a danger after the heroics in Dublin that performance levels would drop in the second game in the Six Nations. These fears proved unfounded as a hungry England swept aside an inept French side.
Against Ireland, it was the devastating power of the forward line that saw them claim a surprise but well-deserved win. In this eagerly anticipated clash with the French, it was the complementary skill of the backline that proved too effective for France. The 44-8 scoreline could have been more emphatic had the English not eased off in the second half.
Whilst Jonny May will rightly grab the headlines for his first-half hat-trick of tries, full credit must go to the England coaching team, whose game plan was executed flawlessly, cruelly exposing the tactical weaknesses of the French system.
Eddie Jones had drilled his players to expose the space behind the defensive lines, a simple but highly effective ploy that paid dividends. England’s kicking ability is what has made them so effective in the opening two games. 70% of England’s ten tries are of a result of a move that included a tactical kick. While kicking is often more associated with defensive play, it can be a game changer when used in an attacking sense, as France found out.
England had the ball in France’s half for 60% of the game but attempted 11 more ball from hand kicks than France who attempted 38. The tactics worked perfectly and within 30 minutes, May had already completed a hat-trick of tries in the left-hand corner.
England, like against the Irish, started with a full tempo physical approach and once again it was effective as the French faced a barrage of kicks behind their back three. France went into this game low on confidence. The previous 12 Six Nations encounters have led to 9 defeats and they played this game like a team expecting to be beat.
Just before the break, England had their fourth try which awards the bonus point, when Farell slid over the line to give England a 30-8 scoreline.
Excitement for the next round of games, which start the weekend of the 23rd February, is already reaching fever pitch levels. The clash of the weekend is, without doubt, the two unbeaten teams in the tournament going head to head as England travel to the Principality Stadium to meet Wales.
England coach Eddie Jones has described the current Welsh line up as the best Welsh team ever. He will know his frontline will face a stern test against a more defensively astute Wales. Whilst Wales join England at the summit of the Six Nations, the two teams have had contrasting tournaments so far. While England has received praise for victories over Ireland and France, Wales have been uninspiring despite a 24-19 win over France and a 26-15 triumph over Italy.
Coach Gatland admitted after the Italy game that his side would be ‘embarrassed’ by England if they perform as bad as they did against the Italians. This could be the call to action that his Wales team need. They are, after all, on a record-breaking run, the victory over Italy becoming the 11th straight Test win they have enjoyed. How they would love to make that 12 over their biggest rivals and cement their Six Nation’s challenge.