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Raphael Ibanez on England v France

Raphael Ibanez
By Raphael Ibanez
Former France captain and BBC Six Nations analyst

Everything is in place for a great encounter at Twickenham between England and France.

France are desperate to show the rugby world that they can follow their win against Wales with another consistent performance, and victory in England would be another step to them earning respect.

evremont and Sebastien Chabal
France coach Marc Lievremont has moved Sebastien Chabal to flanker

Marc Lievremont's team selection is perhaps less about creativity than you would expect from a typical French side.

The players selected are big, direct and confrontational and it's going to be a battle of the giants.

Tactically France have gone with big men in almost every position and their impact as ball carriers in the loose could be huge.

Moving Sebastien Chabal to flanker is not a gamble by head coach Marc Lievremont, the only question is whether he will last in that position for the full 80 minutes.

One thing that France's coaches need to understand though, is that it is all well and good preparing for the World Cup in two years time, but you need to go and win competitions before that.

There is a still a lot to play for in this tournament and two wins could be enough to see them winning the Six Nations title.

England are under a tremendous amount of pressure and this is a must-win game for them.

I think lock Nick Kennedy is unlucky to be dropped to the bench as he has done very well in the line-out, but I think manager Martin Johnson has pulled off a masterstroke by picking Simon Shaw in his place.

A lot has been said about England's lack of discipline and 10 yellow cards in four games is simply too much

Raphael Ibanez
He is an experienced warrior and in such a tense game I fully back his selection.

England need to learn from the mistakes Wales made in their defeat to France as they didn't pressure the Welsh line-out enough.

They allowed the French line-out to give easy ball to their back line and handing France that much possession will hurt you.

A lot has been said about England's lack of discipline and 10 yellow cards in four games is simply too much.

It is not in the English mentality to give that many away and I'm surprised that it has happened, but they should not be talking about this anymore, they should just concentrate on their game.

I think the key for England is how Toby Flood will control the game for England at fly-half.

He has got the number 10 shirt ahead of Andy Goode and Danny Cipriani.

It is too late for my former Wasps team-mate Cipriani to make an impact in this tournament but he is working hard in training.

I'm pleased to see he has got that hunger inside him and that is what you need to succeed on the international stage. He is starting against Gloucester on Saturday and that is good news for Wasps and good news for him.

So on one hand we have a France side desperate for recognition and on the other we have an England team with their backs against the wall.

Of course being a former captain of France I cannot back England to win so I'm going for France, by one point!

Raphael Ibanez is a former captain of France and won 98 caps in his career. He will be an expert analyst on BBC TV for England v France on Sunday. Follow the match live on BBC One, BBC Radio 5 Live and the BBC Sport website from 1430 GMT.

Raphael Ibanez was talking to Paul Birch

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see also
England v France (Sun)
13 Mar 09 |  Rugby Union
Defiant Borthwick remains upbeat
12 Mar 09 |  English
England change three for France
11 Mar 09 |  English
Chabal to switch for England game
11 Mar 09 |  Rugby Union
Jeremy Guscott column
13 Mar 09 |  Rugby Union
Skipper Borthwick defies critics
10 Mar 09 |  English
France 21-16 Wales
27 Feb 09 |  Rugby Union
France surprise with Baby at 10
25 Feb 09 |  Rugby Union
Ireland 14-13 England
28 Feb 09 |  Rugby Union
France 22-13 Scotland
14 Feb 09 |  Rugby Union
Ibanez retires over head injuries
17 Feb 09 |  London Wasps


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