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Never a weak French scrum - Rowntree

19th February 2013 18:03


Thomas Domingo France v Scrum machine

Powerful prop: Thomas Domingo

England forward's coach Graham Rowntree is preparing his side for a frontal assault in Saturday's clash with France at Twickenham.

The French arrive under massive pressure after losing their opening two games of the championship for the first time since 1982 and Rowntree expects the visitors' pack to be breathing fire.

"Philippe Saint-André is already saying this is their Grand Slam," said Rowntree on Tuesday.

"It will change the whole complexion of their championship if they win at the weekend and the way they will challenge us is through their forward pack.

"There is never a weak French scrum. We are preparing for (loosehead prop Thomas) Domingo. I think he will start.

"We have been watching him play for Clermont. He has been around that set-up for a few years now. He is an incredible scrummager, a compact little unit but technically very good.

"As an outfit, regardless of results, that area of the game is something we always respect with France."

The England staff have a few decisions to make in their own front row with Saracens prop Mako Vunipola, who has been used an 'impact player' of the bench so far, pushing hard for a starting berth ahead of Joe Marler.

"He played well (against Exeter) didn't he? He has been one of the real breakthrough players of the season so far," noted Rowntree.

"I am delighted with his progress. He demonstrates the strength we have got in many positions.

"I remember myself as a prop coming on and trying to get up to the pace of the game, trying to make an impact on the game and he does it better than I ever did.

"Who we start, it's no bad thing for a person like him to sit on the bench. What I mean by that is he could start, I'm quite comfortable with him starting. It is horses for courses."

England head coach Stuart Lancaster will finalising his starting line-up on Thursday.

Meanwhile, France fly-half Frederic Michalak is determined to rise to the challenge of ending England's bid for a Grand Slam.

"We are going to play against one of the best teams in the world," said Michalak.

"We're going to play with our heart and defend our colours. I hope it will go our way. It would be the icing on the cake.

"It's always special to play against England. We will try to dig and find something we have not found yet.

"France against England at Twickenham - it's the ideal place against the ideal rival.

"You can't dream of a better stage - 80,000 supporters with all the folklore that goes with it. I can't wait."

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