Jump to main content
Premiership Rugby

England v France – How England rate

A Gallagher Premiership Rugby ball

FULLBACK: JOSH LEWSEYUndoubtedly the 'find' of England's World Cup campaign. He seems to have found an extra edge of speed on the hard surfaces Down Under and adds an extra dimension to England's attack by hitting the line at speed. His relative inexperience at Test level will work to his advantage against the French, as they have yet to experience the Wasps' running lines from fullback.Player rating: 7/10

RIGHT-WING: JASON ROBINSONFor all the dance moves, the Sale Sharks man has not made the impact that many expected he would do on this tournament. All that changed last week went he accelerated through two waves of Welsh defence to set up the try that finally put English minds at rest. A proven match-winner who can beat the French at their own game – the speeding counter-attack.Player rating: 8/10

OUTSIDE CENTRE: WILL GREENWOODThe Harlequin has long been England's try creator, but this tournament he has been their try-scorer – a fact that illustrates what a topsy-turvy time England have had so far. He will benefit from his wily new centre partner's vision, and the two will be looking to make magic together.Player rating: 8/10

INSIDE CENTRE: MIKE CATTThe big call. Catt saved England's bacon against the Welsh by drawing some of the heat out of Jonny's kitchen. Wales had not planned for such an eventuality and were left flat-footed by his introduction, the difference this week is that the French will know what's coming. The Bath man has looked like a free-spirit coming off the bench, but things could be different now that he is expected to deliver for real – has been guilty of a few costly England chokes in the past.Player rating: 7/10

LEFT-WING: BEN COHENEngland's outstanding performer of the 2003 Six Nations campaign has yet to really strut his stuff in Australia. He has defended well, but has suffered from a lack of ball. No one can fault his enthusiasm, but he has been guilty of coming in to look for work at the wrong times, cluttering up the midfield and leaving his wing exposed to the counter-attack. Has to learn to wait for the ball, and his forwards have to learn to produce it. Player rating: 7/10

FLY-HALF: JONNY WILKINSONWilkinson looks like he has been struggling under the weight of his World Cup 'to-do' list – and who wouldn't? Place-kicker, territory snatcher, tactical director, attack instigator, defensive maestro, media darling, clothes horse, product model and pin-up! Phew! The genius is still in residence, but he will need the help of his back row and centres if he wants to keep Frédéric Michalak's hands off his fly-half crown. Player rating: 8/10

SCRUM-HALF: MATT DAWSONDawson's passing game has suffered due to the shaky forward platform he has been forced to work off – sloppy conditions he has grown acutely unaccustomed to during England's recent run of form. Made up for this by putting in some good probing runs against Wales, and was England's best player in the early stages. He won't find the French fringes as inviting and should concentrate on serving up impeccable ball for his halfback partner.Player rating: 7/10

NO.8: LAWRENCE DALLAGLIODallaglio has admitted that he has not had the best tournament so far and needs to raise his game if England are going to come through Sunday's tussle. England have missed his ability to get past the gainline – he clearly isn't the Dallaglio that ripped through Australia and New Zealand during the summer tour. But cometh the hour, cometh the man – all England needs out of him is just two more massive games. Player rating: 6/10

NO.7 FLANK: NEIL BACKStill putting in the tireless performances, but England have leaked a few tries, and the perfectionist in Back will blame himself for not stemming the leaks. Back has missed Hill more than most and will be happy to get their dynamic partnership back in action – he will need to be at his sharpest to beat his nemesis Olivier Magne to the break-down ball.Player rating: 7/10

NO.6 FLANK: RICHARD HILLFinally he is back! You never really appreciate something until it disappears, and Hill's absence has been no different. For too long the Saracens man has been England's invisible hero. When it comes to great blindsides, it's what you don't see that counts, and Hill's ability to wrap up the game and cut the opponents' flow of ball to a trickle makes him one of the finest No.6s of all time. If England find their feet again against the French, it will be due to this man. His lofty rating is based on ability, but his fitness could let him down on Sunday. Player rating: 9/10

NO.5 LOCK: BEN KAYKay is cursed to stand in Johnson's shadow forever, but he is a phenomenally talented athlete in his own right. His line-out work is virtually flawless and he puts his bulk to good use around the park. A little too keen to indulge his wing fantasies perhaps, but that trait may have been knocked out of him during the Wales game when it became painfully obvious that he doesn't have the pace to latch on to cross-field kicks!Player rating: 8/10

NO.4 LOCK: MARTIN JOHNSON (CAPTAIN)Johnson is England's most important player by a country mile. The captain's leadership skills came to the fore when England were under the cosh against Wales. But on Sunday he will need to gain control of his players from the first minute, his influence in the opening exchanges will be crucial.Player rating: 9/10

TIGHTHEAD PROP: PHIL VICKERYThe big Gloucester man's role on Sunday is vital. He must anchor the scrum and ensure a solid platform for his backs. England's scrummage looked a little shaky against the Wales, and Vickery will be determined to make amends on Sunday. He will relish his chance to get one over France's famous front row.Player rating: 8/10

HOOKER: STEVE THOMPSONThe Northampton Saint has toned down his rampant midfield runs, and has learnt when it is time to simply knuckle down and focus on the basics. He will be wise to follow this course of action on Sunday when he comes up against the formidable French.Player rating: 7/10

LOOSEHEAD PROP: TREVOR WOODMANThe Gloucester man nudges out the evergreen Jason Leonard after benefiting from a second-half appearance against Wales. Woodman did his bit to settle England, and was exactly what his team of too many cooks so desperately needed – a tireless washer-upper. Will need all his wits about him at the scrum on Sunday. Player rating: 7/10


DORIAN WEST:The veteran hooker has done well to squeeze past Mark Regan and onto the bench. The Leicester Tiger is a great technician and still a highly mobile force around the field, but he lacks Thompson's sheer physical presence.

JASON LEONARD:If the old warhorse gets on the pitch he will break the world record for International appearances. Don't bet against it, the veteran is breathing down the neck of Trevor Woodman and would relish an 18th bash at the French. Yes, 18th!

MARTIN CORRY:The versatile Leicester man is proven player of Test quality who has the knack of rising to the occasion. His selection ahead of Simon Shaw, and alongside Lewis Moody, suggests that England are still not 100 percent convinced of Richard Hill's recovery.

LEWIS MOODY:Moody will always suffer in comparison with Richard Hill. But some good work in the senior man's absence will stand him in good stead – he has managed to control his penalty count and improved his ball retention during this tournament.

KYRAN BRACKEN:Could Dawson have finally won the 10-year battle for the No.9 shirt? Don't bet on it, Dawson may be the better runner, but Bracken has the better pass and could be a useful addition to the field of play once the game settles down (if it ever does).

MIKE TINDALL:The workhorse loses out to the show-pony. Tindall put in the hard-yards but, in the absence of any creativity around him, was shown up to be a little one dimensional. But the Bath man has a lot more to his game than the big 'bosh' and his omission is a tough break.

IAIN BALSHAW:Balshaw has had a better tournament that many expected, and has shown some flashes of his former self. But at times he has looked a little too easy to read, and his lack of bulk leaves him a little too vulnerable to France's menacing back row.

Kick-off: 20.00 local (09.00 GMT), Live in the UK on ITV1

By Andy Jackson


Next Story

England upbeat ahead of semi

Previous Story

England v France – How France rate

Choose your club

Bath Rugby
Bristol Bears
Exeter Chiefs
Gloucester Rugby
Leicester Tigers
London Irish
Newcastle Falcons
Northampton Saints
Sale Sharks
Worcester Warriors
No Club