France’s big men are cut down to size as Les Bleus are Le Crunched by England bully boys in Six Nations
- England beat France 44-8 in a Six Nations showdown at Twickenham on Sunday
- France’s team of big men were out of shape, structurally as much as physically
- The two sides meet again in their final World Cup qualifying game on October 12
- England appear to be working to a strategy this campaign, a well-executed plan
‘You’re a big man,’ says Michael Caine, as Jack Carter, ‘but you’re out of shape. With me, it’s a full time job — now behave yourself.’ He then administers what, in the local parlance, might be called a slap.
As was given to France at Twickenham on Sunday. Big men, but out of shape, structurally as much as physically, they could not live with Eddie Jones’s England.
A full-time job? Jones would most certainly say so about this Six Nations campaign. He refuses to countenance talk of these games having any bearing on England’s strategy in World Cup year, but it was impossible not to witness such an emphatic victory without casting one’s mind forward to October 12, when England next face France in their final Pool C qualifying game in Yokohama.
England overpowered France 44-8 in a Six Nations showdown at Twickenham on Sunday
Owen Farrell scored one of six tries for the home side, who ran out emphatic winners
2 – This was only the second time England have scored 30 points in the first half of a Test match against France.
It is the 19th time they have done so in all Tests and just the sixth time in the Six Nations.
Even with Argentina also in the mix it is seen as the match that could decide who qualifies, or who wins the group. Either way, here was another marker after the win in Ireland, France blown away — their most significant defeat since the very first Championship meeting of the nations to take place in England in 1911.
It was a 37-point winning margin 108 years ago, and 36 points this time around. It would have been more had England not run out of steam in the second-half.
Perversely, Jones hailed the second-half rearguard actions as more impressive, despite leading 30-8 at half-time and claiming a bonus point within 30 minutes. He also described Warren Gatland’s Wales, England’s next opponents, as the best Welsh team ever.
Sometimes, his post-match exercises appear wanton exercises in mischief. He was indisputably right about one thing, though: England left as many as 20 points out there. Despite the enormous scoreline, they did what was necessary, much like Jack Carter.
Eddie Jones hailed the second-half rearguard actions as more impressive than the first
The head injury sustained by flanker Tom Curry was spectacular even by Six Nations standards
And there was blood. This is not called Le Crunch for nothing and the head injury sustained by flanker Tom Curry in the second-half was spectacular even by Six Nations standards.
The wound looked as if he had been taken out by one clean shot from an assassin’s bullet, and the resulting gore would have tested Quentin Tarantino. Naturally, within minutes of leaving the field, Curry returned with a head bandage held by black masking tape. Curry made 19 tackles, the blindside flanker Mark Wilson just one behind. If this win had unsung heroes, it was this pair.
Get Carter is arguably Michael Caine’s finest film. Jack Carter was a cold, brutal, gangster, and his violence was terrifyingly matter-of-fact. Caine said he wanted to portray a criminal element that wasn’t either foolish or funny, to take the pornography out of violence, show it as it really is.
England did as much against France. The build up to this game had lingered luridly over the heaviest pack to visit Twickenham, all slow-motion collisions, and romanticised memories of big men and bigger hits. With the changes France made from the opening game that imbalance did not materialise — England’s pack were bigger — but it hardly mattered.
Powerful No 8 Billy Vunipola looks to drive through the French defence at Twickenham
England’s weight, their violence, was concise and sharp, not choreographed. A Mako Vunipola hit in the opening minute; one from Courtney Lawes on Mathieu Bastareaud in the second-half that belied the criticism he rarely picks on men his own size.
Caine’s Carter never uses a flurry of punches if one will do and Jones’s England were equally economical. Their mammoth defensive effort negated France’s might and defeated them with an intelligent and effective kicking game. Not punts and penalties, but little grubbers that helped create five of their six tries.
Jones described seeing Jonny May give chase as like watching a dog scurry furiously after a stick in the park. At times the contact was as fleeting as that of a hound getting a thrown ball under control, too. May had a hat-trick of tries before half-time, while carrying the ball a grand total of 10 metres. Economical again.
Most importantly, England appear to be working to a strategy in this campaign, a well-executed plan. France lacked that. As in Paris against Wales, so much of what they did was off the cuff.
Wing Jonny May scored a brilliant hat-trick inside the first 30 minutes of the Six Nations clash
England fly-half Farrell kicked 13 points from the tee as the Red Rose punished their rivals
They left huge gaps at the back, again, which England happily exploited, all part of Jones’s theory about the way modern rugby has changed. Teams defend differently, he said, so England adapt accordingly. His players have certainly bought into it this season.
Heaven knows what France’s Jacques Brunel is telling his players. Conceding a penalty seven minutes in, captain Guilhem Guirado was told by referee Nigel Owens: ‘You stayed, and you could have moved much quicker.
You made no effort at all.’ The captain, remember, and already 5-0 down. If he wasn’t going to avoid sloppy, lazy play, so early in the game, then when?
Sure enough, Farrell kicked successfully and France were shipping points at more than one per minute, a steady tumble downhill that continued until half-time.
France, led by Guilhem Guirado (left) endured a punishing afternoon at Twickenham
Of course, England bandwagons have been derailed in Cardiff before. With so much clamour and expectation around England closing in on a Grand Slam in World Cup year, nothing would give Gatland and his players greater pleasure than an ambush. Yet there is little evidence of that potential, so far.
Wales beat France, too, but did so from being 16-0 down in a match that saw arguably the greatest act of self-sabotage in recent sporting history. Wales and Italy tied on tries on Saturday, too.
‘If we play like that against England, it will be embarrassing,’ said Gatland. Yet only a fool would think they will. And Jones’s England are not fools. With them, this year at least it looks a full-time job.
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