Eddie Jones promised to create a unique style of play when he took over as head coach in November 2015, citing the importance of attack and "to have [a] bulldog spirit in our defence". After just five months, Jones’ vision has already delivered success in securing the Triple Crown by beating Wales 25-21 in a tense finish last Saturday.
The 56-year-old Australian managed to achieve what predecessor Stuart Lancaster could not in four seasons as head coach: win the Six Nations. During that time, England fans had to watch as Wales and Ireland claimed two championships apiece, but now they relish the prospect of playing France in Paris for the Grand Slam on Saturday 19th March 2016.
Although England have not yet won, Jones already appears to have one eye on the future, saying he would not stop at the Grand Slam and that he will “be satisfied when England become the number one team in the world”.
Jones’ ability to turn England around over the past five months has created a team that is considered the favourite to beat France on the latter's home turf. Ahead of the showdown, William Hill Sports positions England as 1/3 winners, while France are valued at 5/2.
England fans should feel good about their chances, but they will also hope for a less nerve-racking victory than against Wales. After racing ahead with a 19-0 lead, England’s defence weakened in the latter stages and gave up two tries in three minutes. England eventually won 25-21 by forcing George North into touch to kill off the game.
What that experience suggests is that England must guard against errors when they play France. Wales proved it’s possible to claw back a lead, so England must be wary of overconfidence as pre-match favourites.
Despite losing to Scotland last Sunday, French prop Uini Atonio has spoken of "[wanting] to finish on a high against an England team that haven’t lost yet." If Atonio gets his way, England would be denied their first Grand Slam since Clive Woodward coached the team to victory in 2003.
France are also fighting for redemption in a Six Nations campaign that started brightly with wins over Italy and Ireland before faltering with losses against Wales and Scotland. A win against England would ensure they finish with a winning record and avoid a blow to their pride in seeing England celebrate a Grand Slam on French soil.
However, France must improve on a performance that saw them defeated 29-18 by Scotland at Murrayfield. In the process, France also lost their ten-year unbeaten record against the Scots, so Saturday could mean the difference between ending the Six Nations with hope or disappointment.
Their chances depend on strengthening a defence that gave up three tries to Scotland; France had taken an early lead with Guilhem Guirado’s early try, but they let Scotland come back too easily by falling to an 18-5 deficit. Les Bleus were positive in scoring two tries, but a struggling defence highlighted their greatest weakness.
William Hill Sports has a wide selection of France vs England betting markets, and although the Triple Crown winners have low value as 1/3 favourites, there are other options to consider. For example, backing England/England in double result will increase their standard 1/3 odds to a more rewarding 8/11.
Value can also be found in handicap betting, with France available at 10/11 with an +8.0 advantage to win in the 80 minutes handicap market. Meanwhile, confident England fans can give their team a -13.0 handicap in exchange for 7/4 odds if they believe their team can still win with that deficit.
The scoring also has an interesting option in France winning the race to ten points at 13/8, while England have less value at 4/9. Backing France could work out well if England have a slow start in a game with Grand Slam pressure.
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