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Page last updated at 00:04 GMT, Saturday, 19 February 2011

France will be fired up to beat 'big boys' England

RBS Six Nations
Venue: Twickenham Date: Saturday, 26 February Kick-off: 1700 GMT
Coverage: Live on BBC One/Red Button/Online, Post-match forum 1900-1930; Live text commentary and scores on BBC Sport website

Tom Palmer
Palmer plays his club rugby in Paris for Stade Francais

England lock Tom Palmer believes France will be fired up to win their crunch Six Nations clash because England are seen as the "big boys" of world rugby.

France defence coach Dave Ellis said his players are more motivated against their cross-channel rivals than others.

"Everyone hates the English. Everyone raises their game when we come up against them," said Palmer.

"England are essentially the biggest union in the world and it's always good to beat the big boys, isn't it?"

Palmer, who plays his club rugby with Stade Francais in Paris, said he took opponents' attitude as "a compliment", and that it comes with the territory of playing for England.

I think we've got guys who can hurt the French

Tom Palmer

"It is the same when we go to Cardiff, Dublin, Edinburgh, even the Australians and Kiwis don't like us!

"That's just the way it is really, it's all part of our colonial history and our empire."

England and France will face each other next Saturday, 26 February, as the only two undefeated sides in the tournament, knowing the winner has a real chance of going on to win the Grand Slam.

England, chasing a first Championship title and clean sweep since 2003, have impressed in opening wins over Wales and Italy, while France have beaten Scotland at home and won in Dublin.

"It will be a tough challenge," acknowledged Palmer, one of England's star turns so far. "They will try and dominate you up front, in the line-out and in the mauls and they are very dangerous off turnover ball.

Bryn Palmer's blog

"We have to match them and impose ourselves in the forward game and not give them any opportunities to counter-attack, so no sloppy passes, no turnovers, no poor kicks. That is where they are so dangerous.

"I think we've got guys who can hurt the French. Look at the way James Haskell played in the second half against Italy, with all those carries.

"If he can bring some of that into the French game, he will cause some problems."

England could make changes to their starting side with prop Andrew Sheridan - a late withdrawal before the Italy game - likely to return providing he proves his fitness for club side Sale this weekend.

Captain Lewis Moody could also be in contention if he proves his fitness for Bath in their Premiership match against Northampton, while Leicester flanker Tom Croft is also poised to return three months out.

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see also
England upturn 'too late' for Cup
17 Feb 11 |  English
England-France is 'title decider'
14 Feb 11 |  Rugby Union
Palmer ponders future in France
01 Feb 11 |  English
Ashton has the X-factor - Lindsay
16 Feb 11 |  Northampton
England 59-13 Italy
12 Feb 11 |  Rugby Union
Wales 19-26 England
04 Feb 11 |  Rugby Union

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