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Jeremy Guscott column

Jeremy Guscott

Former Bath, England & Lions centre

England have only made three changes so I don't think we can expect too much difference in performance - unless the team has finally understood that conceding penalties and getting sin-binned won't win you games!

England lock Simon Shaw
Shaw will add a bit more muscle and bulk to England's second row
Simon Shaw will bring the added punch up front but should have been in the team instead of Steve Borthwick and not Nick Kennedy. Martin Johnson is persisting with his choice of captain come what may.

I understand Tom Croft coming in but not at the expense of James Haskell. Nick Easter is the weak link in the back row, he's been totally ineffectual but Johnson must see him as a leader to keep him in the team.

Ugo Monye is a straight replacement for the injured Paul Sackey on the wing but a good one at that: he has the pace to finish any chances that come his way.

It will be fascinating to see if England can lower their penalty count and keep 15 players on the pitch for 80 minutes.

I still feel England have really got to go out and test themselves to find out what they are capable of producing. In all their games so far, with Italy being the exception, it has appeared as though they've gone out with a damage limitation agenda to keep the score down.

I want England to raise the tempo of the game and move away from the pick and drive from the base of rucks.

England need to attack through Mike Tindall up the middle, supported by the back row and let's see the likes of Haskell, Croft and Shaw running at pace into the heart of the French defence.

If they up the tempo there will be more space for Toby Flood and Riki Flutey to really attack and bring Delon Armitage, Monye and Mark Cueto into the game.

Mathieu Bastareaud is the player for France who could cause real problems for England. He is big, uncompromising and a real handful.

France centre Mathieu Bastareaud
Bastareaud's huge physical presence will create problems for England
Expect to see him running in Flood's direction, asking questions of England's tackling.

In fairness, a man the size of Bastareaud is going to ask questions of anybody's defence, it's going to be a big test of Flood, Flutey and Tindall to keep this man in check.

France have picked a big team to go to Twickenham to muscle their way through what they consider to be a weak forward pack.

But England shouldn't be suckered into thinking that France will only try to take it them through the forwards. In the backs, the likes of Maxime Medard, Cedric Heymans and Julien Malzieu have the pace and ability to shred the English defence.

Even though Wales have made lots of changes the team doesn't look weakened at all.

All the new players coming in will want to impress the coach Warren Gatland to give themselves a chance of starting against Ireland.

They should have too much firepower and if they play at pace Italy will fall away in the last 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, Ireland have a big test against an improving Scottish team but I feel Ireland should beat them.

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see also
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
Skipper Borthwick defies critics
10 Mar 09 |  English
England slide to lowest ranking
02 Mar 09 |  Rugby Union
Haskell wants England crackdown
28 Feb 09 |  Rugby Union
Indiscipline angers boss Johnson
28 Feb 09 |  Rugby Union
Ireland 14-13 England
28 Feb 09 |  Rugby Union
France 21-16 Wales
27 Feb 09 |  Rugby Union
Scotland 26-6 Italy
28 Feb 09 |  Scottish

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