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France v England talking points

Published 18/03/2016

England head coach Eddie Jones is taking his side to France
England head coach Eddie Jones is taking his side to France

England stand one victory away from claiming a first Grand Slam for 13 years with only France capable of preventing them being crowned the dominant force in Europe.

Here, Press Association Sport examines five talking points ahead of the Paris showdown.

EDDIE CIRCLES THE WAGONS

England are under siege from all sides - or at least that is what their head coach Eddie Jones would have you believe. Wales are out to derail their Grand Slam bid, while France are plotting some pre-match histrionics to unsettle his team on their big day. Everyone wants to see England fail says Jones and while he is right on that count, his ability to see demons in every shadow casts him as rugby's Jose Mourinho.

A PROP AT THE CENTRE OF ATTENTION

Jones denies the disciplinary process that has cleared Joe Marler of striking and verbal abuse despite the prop's admission of guilt on both counts has been a distraction, but only time will tell. The disruption to preparations on the pitch has been minimal as Marler was to be demoted to the bench anyway, but the Six Nations' farcical investigation into his "gypsy boy" insult has dominated the build up to the climax of the Six Nations and resulted in open hostility between England and Wales.

HISTORY DOES NOT MAKING PRETTY READING

The last 26 years of the Championship are littered with England failures at the last hurdle with the greatest prize in the northern hemisphere eluding them on the final day in 1990, 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2011. For an example of how their Six Nations rivals relish the opportunity to deny them, Dublin five years ago serves a stark reminder that even when there is nothing to play for, the Celts and France will raise their game against their long-standing enemy.

ITOJE'S THE MAN

Joe Launchbury is now full fit, but he is unable to dislodge 21-year-old rising star Maro Itoje from the starting XV. In only his third cap and second start, Itoje was outstanding against Wales with his work rate, athleticism and hunger evidence of a second row who has the potential to become one of England's greats.

FRANCE'S DECLINE

One of the sadder features of international rugby has been France's ongoing decline, which shows no sign of being reversed in the early says of Guy Noves' reign. Only Italy have scored fewer tries in this year's Six Nations and they remain as erratic as ever, their famed flare and ingenuity a distant memory. Jones insists they remain capable of the "sublime", however, and knows the importance of preventing them from building any momentum - especially at home.

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