France are one step away from securing a famous Grand Slam as they take on England at home on the final day of the 2022 Six Nations. Victory in Paris will mean a first championship win since 2010 for Fabien Galthié’s men, who have remained unbeaten throughout this year’s tournament.
After dominant displays against Italy, Ireland and Scotland, many fans expect Les Bleus to walk away with the title, but a less convincing performance against Wales last week could give England hope of causing an upset. The visitors head to the Stade de France with nothing to lose, with defeat to Ireland in the last round meaning they could finish anywhere between third and fifth in the overall championship table.
Galthié has remained consistent with his team selection for the crucial clash, making just one change as Damian Penaud starts after recovering from Covid, while England coach Eddie Jones has made a few surprising calls, with George Furbank starting at full back as one of five changes to the starting XV.
Here’s everything you need to know about Saturday’s championship finale:
What time is France v England kick-off?
France v England kicks off at 8pm UK time (9pm local time) on Saturday, March 19, at Stade de France in Paris.
What TV channel is France v England on? What about live streaming?
France v England is being broadcast live on ITV1 with coverage starting at 7.15pm.
You will also be able to watch the match via live stream using the ITV Hub.
What’s the France v England team news?
The hosts will be boosted by the return of Damian Penaud for Saturday’s crucial match in Paris. The winger missed last week’s narrow victory over Wales after testing positive for Covid but has recovered to take the place of Yoram Moefana in the only change to the starting XV.
Lock Romain Taofifenua also missed the trip to Cardiff because of coronavirus and is picked on the bench as part of a six-two split between forwards and backs, signalling a renewed second-half assault from the pack.
France’s team selection has shown remarkable continuity throughout the Six Nations with 11 players starting all five matches and all but one of the changes made in the tournament enforced by coronavirus.
Meanwhile, Eddie Jones’ team selection has raised a few eyebrows after he made five changes to the England side that lost to Ireland a week ago. Northampton Saints’ George Furbank is named at full-back, with Freddie Steward moving to the right wing, while Sam Underhill makes his first appearance for his country since November in the absence of the injured Tom Curry.
The experienced Ben Youngs replaces Harry Randall at scrum-half, while Will Stuart starts ahead of Kyle Sinckler at tighthead and Nick Isiekwe comes in for the suspended Charlie Ewels. Nic Dolly and Ollie Chessum could win their first England caps after being named on the bench, while winger Max Malins has been dropped from the squad altogether.
England: 15. George Furbank; 14. Freddie Steward; 13. Joe Marchant, 12. Henry Slade, 11. Jack Nowell; 10. Marcus Smith, 9. Ben Youngs; 1. Ellis Genge, 2. Jamie George, 3. Will Stuart, 4. Maro Itoje, 5. Nick Isiekwe, 6. Courtney Lawes (capt), 7. Sam Underhill, 8. Sam Simmonds.
Replacements: 16. Nic Dolly, 17. Joe Marler, 18. Kyle Sinckler, 19. Ollie Chessum, 20. Alex Dombrandt, 21. Harry Randall, 22. George Ford, 23. Elliot Daly.
France: 15. Melvyn Jaminet; 14. Damian Penaud, 13. Gael Fickou, 12. Jonathan Danty, 11. Gabin Villière; 10. Romain Ntamack, 9. Antoine Dupont; 1. Cyril Baille, 2. Julien Marchand, 3. Uini Atonio, 4. Cameron Woki, 5. Paul Willemse, 6. François Cros, 7. Anthony Jelonch, 8. Gregory Alldritt.
Replacements: 16. Peato Mauvaka, 17. Jean-Baptiste Gros, 18. Mohamed Haouas, 19. Romain Taofifénua, 20. Thibaud Flament, 21. Dylan Cretin 22. Maxime Lucu, 23. Thomas Ramos.
Who is the France v England referee?
Referee: Jaco Peyper (SARU)
Assistant referees: Mike Adamson (SRU) and Frank Murphy (IRFU)
TMO: Marius Jonker (SARU)
What have the coaches said?
France head coach Fabien Galthié: ““We are very attentive to what is said. We listen to our opponents. This contributes to our preparation. The appointment is Saturday night, at the Stade de France. We will be ready to respond.
“There is a whole image around ‘Le Crunch’. They are the ones who invented rugby. Their federation is the one that has the most registered players, along with South Africa. At Twickenham and in the league, all the matches are played hard, whatever the stakes. In the North, there is only one world champion team, it is England. These are the unlucky finalists of 2019. They are one of the four giants of world rugby… but with France now.”
On switching to a bench with a six-two split between forwards and backs: “We had gone to 5-3 for the Welsh, due to the circumstances, including Covid and the positive tests of Damian Penaud and Romain Taofifenua. From the moment we have all our players available, including Romain, it was easy to build an entity of 23 players. Our team is built around 23 players.”
On naming nine Toulouse players in his team: “These players have won a series of victories recently – but for the France team. In my team there is no such thing as the Toulouse, Bordeaux or Clermont players. It is the French national team that is going to this final rendezvous.”
England head coach Eddie Jones: “This is our strongest 23 for the game against France. We are disappointed not to be in the contention for the trophy but last week’s effort against Ireland was full of pride, energy and tactical discipline. We have focused on refreshing the team this week and we are ready to empty the tank on Saturday.”
On selecting Furbank and moving Steward out wide: “It’s more tactical about the way we think the game is going to be played. France is the highest kicking team in the world so I don’t think they are going to deviate away from that too much.
“France are going to be a massively aroused team. They come through the centre with their big forwards and once they tie you up a little bit they spread the ball to the backs but they won’t do that without using their long kicking game to get them up the field, so they are a very disciplined team in attack and defence and we would anticipate them playing a very sort of similar game.”
On arriving in Paris two days earlier than usual: “The game will give us the most accurate feedback but we have had a really good preparation. We wanted to freshen the boys up. The Ireland game took a lot out of them physically and emotionally so we have freshened them up.