Six Nations: A combined England and France XV ahead of Le Crunch
England and France have released their teams ahead of Saturday’s highly anticipated Le Crunch at Twickenham.
Ahead of the Six Nations tie, the Planet Rugby writers have selected their combined England and France XV based on current form.
England and France combined XV
15 Freddie Steward (England): An incredibly hard call to go against France full-back Thomas Ramos, who has been in prolific form off the tee and in terms of tries scored but Steward is such a quality Test operator. He’s a mountain of a young man who’s so difficult to bring to ground – as France found last year – while in the air Steward is up there with the best in the game, proving to be a safe pair of hands for head coach Steve Borthwick thus far during his tenure.
14 Damian Penaud (France): Speaking of best in class, there is few better than Penaud on this planet. One of the most elegant runners we have seen play the game, his ability to beat a man is a joy to watch as he effortlessly eases by opponents time and time again. Max Malins is a solid option but is lacking the speed and X-factor of Penaud, who continues to impress us and will be crucial to France’s hopes against England and at the World Cup later this year.
13 Gael Fickou (France): Our second French player in this line-up is Fickou, whose defensive leadership and steel often goes unnoticed. Defence coach Shaun Edwards regularly heaps praise on the centre but he is not just solid without the ball, as in attack Fickou’s carries and offloading gets Les Bleus on the front foot. Opposing number, Henry Slade, has struggled to find form so far in the Six Nations and must up his game or the French could run the midfield.
12 Ollie Lawrence (England): Don’t underestimate Jonathan Danty’s return for France as he reunites with Fickou in what is an excellent midfield combination. However, on form, Lawrence has been outstanding and looks to have nailed down England’s 12 jersey moving forward. As mentioned, he needs more from Slade outside him and one wonders if the Bath man’s game will kick on this weekend with a more attack-minded fly-half inside him. We wait to see…
11 Ethan Dumortier (France): A decision we agonised over as Anthony Watson is a top class international wing but is not quite back to peak form. We have no doubt Watson will continue to improve and it’s pleasing to see him injury free after a nightmare run, but Dumortier has grabbed his chance with both hands in Gabin Villiere’s absence. He’s scored two tries and looks very much at home at this level.
10 Marcus Smith (England): Smith was outstanding for Harlequins at Twickenham last week and it could have proved a masterstroke from Borthwick to release him back to his club. England will hope he can replicate that shift against France as we go for him over Romain Ntamack, who’s not had his best Six Nations. There had been calls for Matthieu Jalibert to replace him but he is now injured so it’s another chance for Ntamack against the exciting Smith.
🏴 Marcus Smith gets nod at 10 as Owen Farrell benched. #ENGvFRA
📋 Check out England's team to face France. #GuinnessSixNations 👇 https://t.co/5obbEMBnIl
— Planet Rugby (@PlanetRugby) March 9, 2023
9 Antoine Dupont (France): It says something that even Dupont’s brilliance is now viewed as the norm from the talented Frenchman. A player oozing quality who will catch the English napping at any opportunity. Even if he is at 7/10 then the Red Rose are in trouble. Jack van Poortvliet will learn a great deal from playing against the best in the business, but if he and England’s defence are not switched on for the full 80 minutes, Dupont will wreak havoc at HQ.
8 Gregory Alldritt (France): The La Rochelle dynamo may not be hitting his usual high standards in 2023, but he is still performing at a stupendously high level. He did look a bit fatigued in the latter stages of the first two games, but most would, considering how much work he ploughs through. Alex Dombrandt has had his ups and downs this tournament but looked far better against Wales last time out.
7 Jack Willis (England): The breakdown beast has shown exactly what England fans have been missing after his lengthy injury lay-off. Willis has returned to Test rugby with a glorious bang and is quickly making himself undroppable from that number seven jumper. Francois Cros is just returning from injury and provides a brilliant opponent for Willis this weekend.
6 Charles Ollivon (France): It’s been a real treat to see Ollivon back in a French jersey after missing last year’s Grand Slam. The experienced back-rower has been sublime in the lineouts, bullish with ball in hand and brilliant at the breakdown. Lewis Ludlam came close for all the same reasons, but the Frenchman has been marginally better.
5 Ollie Chessum (England): It’s been a breakout tournament for the young Leicester Tigers lock. He has improved on his performance with each passing week, and expect him to do the same against Les Bleus. Paul Willemse is unlucky to miss out, but he has just not quite been as physically dominant as last year.
🇫🇷 Jonathan Danty is back from injury and starts for Les Bleus. #ENGvFRA
📋 France's 23-man squad to take on England. #GuinnessSixNations https://t.co/NzALFl0DZs
— Planet Rugby (@PlanetRugby) March 9, 2023
4 Thibaud Flament (France): The Championship‘s top tackler, Flament is cementing his role in the starting line-up with Cameron Woki out injured. The Toulouse second-rower has also grabbed a try and has been exceptional in the lineouts. Maro Itoje has had a quiet tournament for England as he has got stuck into the nitty gritty battles. He hasn’t been poor by any means; Flament has just been slightly better.
3 Kyle Sinckler (England): France start with a third different tighthead this weekend, but in all fairness, Sinckler thoroughly deserves a spot in the combined team. England’s set-pieces have improved immensely since Borthwick took over, and the tighthead has played an understated role in its success.
2 Julien Marchand (France): A close call with Jamie George performing particularly well for England for long stints in the opening three matches. However, Marchand has been one of the form hookers in the tournament. His work rate on defence has been off the chart, as he ranks third overall for tackles made (48). He has been similarly brilliant with the ball in hand, giving him the edge over George.
1 Ellis Genge (England): Throwback 12 months ago and this could easily have been Cyril Baille, but the French loosehead is not in the same vein of form. Meanwhile, Genge has consistently performed for England and has been entrusted with the captain’s armband this weekend.
READ MORE: England to use last two rounds to measure progress under Steve Borthwick