Goode: Premiership helping England
Alex Goode believes the superb conditioning evident during England's RBS 6 Nations is a product of the frequently-maligned Aviva Premiership.
The victories over Scotland and Ireland have been notable for the fitness and strength of the Grand Slam hopefuls, as well as their ability to adjust their game to the conditions.
Goode insists the pressure-cooker environment of the Premiership, which is often compared unfavorably to the RaboDirect PRO12 or Top 14, has left them well prepared for the Six Nations. "I look at our conditioning in a different way - I see it as a strength of the Premiership," the Saracens full-back said.
"We argue whether relegation should be there or not, or if the games are boring, but the great thing is that we have a Premiership that's tight. How often are games decided in the last 10-15 minutes? Top teams are generally the ones that come through in that last passage.
"Yes everyone in the England squad is in great shape, but it's also down to the way we're used to playing under pressure. Every game matters and there can be no complacency if you're playing a team at the bottom of the league. You know it will be tough and generally won in the last 15 minutes. That's where we get our composure from."
England will continue their Grand Slam march if they defeat France at Twickenham on Saturday. Successive defeats to Italy and Wales point to a French team in disarray, but Goode cites their ability to reach the 2011 World Cup final and their success last autumn as reasons to be fearful.
"You only have to look at their results in the autumn, when they beat Australia, Argentina and Samoa, and played well, to see what they can do," he said.
"A bit further back at the World Cup people wrote them off after they lost to Tonga, but they got to the final and could have easily beaten New Zealand. Their players haven't become bad players overnight and their teams are some of the best in Europe year after year, so we know they are a good side."
One of the biggest talking points in France is the ongoing selection of Toulouse fly-half Frédéric Michalak, despite him having played most of his club rugby this season at scrum-half.
"He's a wonderful talent, we've known that for a long time. Everyone in the autumn was saying what a great player he was as he carved up the Australians," Goode said. "It obviously hasn't worked out too well for him in the first two games of the Six Nations, but you don't know with Michalak. He has a lot of great skills, but it's tough to say what he could do. He knows what he's doing, but is the definition of unpredictable."