Match Preview: France V England

Match Preview: France V England
Le Crunch is always among the most anticipated fixtures of the Guinness Men’s Six Nations and Saturday’s clash in Lyon has all the ingredients for another classic.

Two old rivals, with teams evenly matched, going head-to-head in a city hosting a Championship match for the first time – France v England is the perfect way to close the 2024 tournament.

This year it has the added spice of – potentially – the title being up for grabs for England.

Considering they suffered their heaviest ever home defeat to France just 12 months ago, imagine how sweet it would be for Steve Borthwick and his men to become champions in Les Bleus’ back yard.

Ireland could dash those hopes with a win or draw against Scotland earlier in the day and are the overwhelming favourites to become champions but, should they slip up and lose,

England are in position to take advantage, which would likely require a bonus-point win.

The famous 23-22 win against Ireland last week has kept them team in contention, which in itself must be considered an achievement considering they won just two of five matches a year ago.

Many of England’s old guard remain – indeed Dan Cole and Danny Care, who scored tries when England last won away to France eight years ago to seal their last Grand Slam, are part of the matchday squad – but it’s the younger faces that have injected some much-needed impetus into the ranks.

Ben Earl, George Martin, Ollie Chessum, Immanuel Feyi-Waboso and Ollie Lawrence were all excellent against Ireland and England delivered a blueprint for they hope can be a very bright future.

France are some way ahead in their development but, by their sky-high expectations, this has been a disappointing Championship.

Their title hopes went up in smoke against Italy in Round 3 - albeit, they are mathematically still in contention, while a win in Lyon could see them finish in the top two again, which they have done every year under head coach Fabien Galthié.


The match is live on ITV1 and ITV X from 7.20pm. It will also be on BBC Radio 5 Live from 7.30pm.


After romping to a bonus-point win in Cardiff last weekend, head coach Fabien Galthié has kept the faith with his entire matchday squad for the game with England.

That includes another start for exciting scrum-half Nolann Le Garrec, who impressed against Wales last weekend in his first start.

England have made just one change to the starting XV that defeated Ireland 23-22 at Twickenham last weekend with Elliot Daly coming into the team to replace the injured Feyi-Waboso.

Among the replacements, Manu Tuilagi is included in an England matchday 23 for the first time since the 2023 Rugby World Cup Bronze Final in Paris.

The centre joins Theo Dan, Joe Marler, Will Stuart, Ethan Roots, Alex Dombrandt, Danny Care and Marcus Smith to make up a strong and experienced bench.


It’s the battle of the Championship’s best ball-carrying No.8s in Lyon.

France’s Gregory Alldritt is the only forward with a carry dominance rate over 50% in this year’s Guinness Men’s Six Nations (67%, min. 20 carries) and has also crossed the gainline from a greater share of his carries than any other player in the Championship (78%).

Meanwhile, Ben Earl has made more carries (62) and beaten more defenders (20) than any other player in this year’s Championship.


He needs to beat just six more defenders to surpass Billy Vunipola’s tally of 25 in 2016 – the most ever by a forward in an edition of the Championship.

Will they both flourish? Will they cancel each other out? Whatever happens, it will be box-office viewing.


France head coach Fabien Galthié: “After the victory in Wales, our players have a new challenge to take on six days later against England.

“It's a different opponent and we will have to respond because we will find an explosive and powerful English team who can play by hand and use the boot.

“There will be a big battle in the contact area and we will have to be consistent and compact because it is an area that they will target.”

England head coach Steve Borthwick said: “After such a hard-fought win against Ireland last week, we realise how important it is to back that performance up with another similar display in Lyon on Saturday.

“France remain one of the very top sides in the world, and will pose a great challenge for us.

“We've had a great preparation so far this week and there is a genuine sense of anticipation and determination around the camp as we head to what will be an exciting final weekend.”


  • France have won each of their last two Guinness Men’s Six Nations matches against England and could win three in a row in this fixture for the first time since 2004-2006

  • France’s most recent victory against England came by a margin of 43 points (53-10 in 2023), their biggest ever win against England in men’s Test rugby.

  • France are unbeaten in this year’s Guinness Men’s Six Nations since losing their opening match against Ireland (W2 D1) and scored five tries in their most recent game against Wales, as many as they’d managed across the opening three rounds.

  • France have the fastest average attacking ruck speed of any team in this year’s Guinness Men’s Six Nations (3.5s), while England have the slowest (4.4s), however, England have slowed down opposition rucks to a greater extent than any other side (4.6s).

  • England have won three of their four games in this year’s Guinness Men’s Six Nations (L1), however, each of those wins came by margins of three points or fewer and saw England recover from a losing position at half-time.

  • England have trailed at half-time in each of their matches this year, however not since the 1974 Five Nations have they trailed at the break in every match of a campaign.


For France, look no further than Damian Penaud.

Despite not scoring a try, Penaud recorded his best fantasy return of the Championship so far with 48 points against Wales last week.

He may not have scored but he did everything else including two assists, one breakdown steal, six tackles, eight defenders beaten and 113m carried. It was a welcome return to form and bodes well for Saturday night.

For England, Ben Earl is a must. His form has not gone unnoticed by most fantasy players and he is one of the most highly-owned players in the game, but his captaincy selection was comparatively low in Round 4.

This may change in Round 5 given his consistency, and where he should be a very strong option to receive the armband in England’s huge clash against France in Lyon on Saturday night. He scored an incredible 72 fantasy points in Round 4 and should be considered a must-pick.


France: 15 Léo Barré, 14 Damian Penaud, 13 Gaël Fickou, 12 Nicolas Depoortère, 11 Louis Bielle-Biarrey, 10 Thomas Ramos, 9 Nolann Le Garrec; 1⁠ ⁠Cyril Baille, 2 Julien Marchand, 3 Uini Atonio, 4 Thibaud Flament, 5 Emmanuel Meafou, 6 François Cros, 7 Charles Ollivon, 8 Grégory Alldritt (c)

Replacements: 16 Peato Mauvaka, 17 Sébastien Taofifenua, 18 Georges-Henri Colombe, 19 Romain Taofifenua, 20 Alexandre Roumat, 21 Paul Boudehent, 22 Maxime Lucu, 23 Yoram Moefana

England: 15. George Furbank; 14. Tommy Freeman; 13. Henry Slade, 12. Ollie Lawrence; 11. Elliot Daly; 10. George Ford (vc), 9. Alex Mitchell; 1. Ellis Genge (vc), 2. Jamie George (c), 3. Dan Cole; 4. Maro Itoje (vc), 5. George Martin; 6. Ollie Chessum, 7. Sam Underhill, 8. Ben Earl

Replacements: 16. Theo Dan, 17. Joe Marler, 18. Will Stuart, 19. Ethan Roots, 20. Alex Dombrandt, 21. Danny Care, 22. Marcus Smith, 23. Manu Tuilagi

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