Round two of the Guinness Six Nations is almost here and excitement is building again. Le Crunch is being hosted at Twickenham as England look build on the momentum of an historic win last weekend in Dublin. Conversely France will be aiming to rectify what was a horror show in Paris a week ago.
Now that the teams have been named, Last Word on Rugby names our picks for a combined England and French team. Unsurprisingly dominated by Eddie Jones’ men but the French do win out in a few key positions.
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Loose-Head Prop – Mako Vunipola
Not a surprising selection here. Vunipola was at his brilliant best last weekend and is key to everything England do well. Be that distributing, carrying or scrummaging, Vunipola has it all. Poirot will offer a strong threat in the set-piece but he just does not offer as much around the field as Vunipola.
Hooker – Guilhem Guirado
Guirado has been a shinning light in a rather dim French side over the past few years. He spearheads them from the front and is a genuine carrying threat as well as a solid set-piece operator. However it is his leadership that sets him apart. It all went to pieces after he was substituted and that is why he gets the nod over George.
Tight-Head Prop – Kyle Sinckler
A real toss of a coin here. Despite a stellar performance last weekend in Dublin, Sinckler still has questions surrounding his scrummaging and temperament. Demba Bamba stood out positively when he came off the bench last week but his inexperience at this level leads us to think Sinckler will have the edge.
Second Row – George Kruis
Given the erratic nature of some of France’s second row play in Paris it is hard to select Vahaamahina this weekend. However, Kruis has done more than enough to earn his place. England’s line out always looks stronger with him there and he as really improved his carrying and defensive capabilities.
Second Row – Courtney Lawes
Lawes’ cameo against Ireland makes his inclusion warranted almost in itself. Given that Lambey has only three international caps and is very much on the fringes of Brunel’s squad it is hard to see him getting the edge over the Northampton man.
Blindside Flanker – Mark Wilson
This time last year Wilson had only made one England appearance on the Argentina tour. Fast forward to 2019 and he almost cannot be dropped. He brings so much energy and work-rate to this England side. However, Camara is a seasoned pro and will give him a stern test in the tight so do not expect him to have this all his own way.
Openside Flanker – Tom Curry
Many had their doubts about Curry’s ability to step up to international rugby. Last week he seemingly put most of these to bed with an excellent display. Iturria was hot on his heels for this place again but once again the Englishmen has to get the nod.
Number 8 – Louis Picamoles
Picamoles has come back into form this season and has deserved his French recall. Another member of this French team that is essential to their success. Many would have selected Vunipola and it is undoubted that his presence alone adds a lot to England. However based purely on individual performances Picamoles has this one.
Scrum Half – Morgan Parra
This seems a bit harsh on Ben Youngs after an excellent display a week ago. However, like Guirado, Parra’s leadership is key to this French side. When he came off, Serin was unable to close the game out against Wales. Therefore, purely based on the amount they matter to their side, Parra gets the nod.
Fly Half – Owen Farrell
No real surprise here. Farrell was at his abrasive best last week and got the better of World Player of the Year Sexton. As a result Lopez cannot really lay any claim to this spot as Farrell is currently streets ahead.
Left Wing – Jonny May
May was sensational last week, especially under the high ball. He was central to everything England did well and deserves his spot on the wing. This selection is made easier given that Brunel has opted for Fickou on the wing, who is primarily as centre. May should have a clear edge here.
Inside Centre – Manu Tuilagi
If France’s team lined up differently this could be a different story. Fofana would probably edge it at twelve but he has been dropped in favour of Doumayrou. As a result, after a successful return to the Six Nations, Tuilagi gets the nod. Expect him to improve upon his very solid form of last weekend.
Outside Centre – Henry Slade
After last weekend’s performance you can pick no one else. Many had feared Slade was unable to translate club form to the international stage. However, in the Six Nations opener he proved everyone wrong. He faces a large challenge in the form of Bastareaud but even so, you cannot look past Slade.
Right Wing – Chris Ashton
Its been six years since Ashton has started a Six Nations match complicating this selection slightly. However, Penaud was exposed in the second half last week and Ashton has vastly improved his defensive capabilities. As a result Ashton shades this one but it could be closely fought.
Fullback – Yoann Huget
On the face of it this is a shocking call after Huget’s display last week. However, although improved, Daly still looks shaky under the high ball. Conversely Huget plays at fullback more regularly and other than his obvious errors he was very dangerous in attack last weekend. Many may not agree but Huget could cause England some real issues.
This team suggests a comfortable England win but it may not be so simple. If England cannot recreate their intensity from last weekend they could see they Six Nations hopes struck a huge blow. France will be looking to bounce back and could come out all guns blazing this weekend.
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