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Premiership Rugby

France may not go the distance’ says Woodward

A Gallagher Premiership Rugby ball

Woodward has stated that he is confident that his team are fit enough to do what no other side has yet done in this competition and pressurise the French for a full 80 minutes.

This follows reports in the English press that a 'player power' revolt had occurred within the England camp, with several players telling their coach that the preparations for last weekend's quarter-final with Wales had been too intense and that training should be scaled down ahead of the French match.

But Woodward claims that preparations for this latest match have simply followed the established template, which has seen England storm to the top of the Zurich World Rankings.

"We are going to be fresh Sunday night and there is nothing that I would change going into the game and we have thirty fresh players which again is a fantastic achievement," Woodward told zurichpremiership.com.

"Going into the World Cup we thought that if we lost so-and-so we thought that would actually affect us but we are going in at full strength and we are fresh. So we do nothing differently.

"I state that categorically, and win, lose or draw there is nothing that I would change in terms of preparation.

"The team looks in excellent shape and we have had a great couple of days, we are very fresh and so are the French. It will be a great match-up tonight [Saturday], but I think that ours tomorrow night [Sunday] will be an even more mouthwatering prospect. It has been a great World Cup and I am just glad we are playing our part with this game."

Despite England's enviable record over the past 18 months, France are being heavily tipped to win Sunday's encounter after their some stylish and highly effectives wins over opponents – most notably the 42-21 quarter-final victory over Ireland – but Woodward believes that Les Bleus have not been properly tested yet during the competition and fitness could play a major factor, particularly in the closing exchanges.

"We have come strong in the last 20 minutes and we needed to come strong and I don't think that the French have been put under that sort of pressure since that game in Marseille," said Woodward.

"They have walked all their matches and even the Ireland game was all over by half-time. I think that this game on Sunday will go down to the last ten minutes.

"I don't think that either team are going to pull ahead in this match. We have had the games to go the distance, but France haven't really gone the distance since the game in Marseille which I think England would have won if we'd kept our heads a bit more in the last few minutes and dropped the goals.

"France are favourites and everyone is saying they are playing very well but they haven't played England yet and they have never been pressurised for 80 minutes."

By Justin O'Regan in Sydney

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