LONDON (AP) – As England and France prepare to meet in a highly anticipated six-nation game at Twickenham on Saturday, their long development has been followed by leadership issues.
An ironic coronavirus outbreak in the French camp – blamed on infected coach Fabien Galthie, architect of the resurrection of France – forced the opening of the home game against Scotland two weeks ago to be postponed and jeopardized the team’s continued participation while it was on the The table of six nations sat at the top.
In the meantime, the English defense of the title blew up a second defeat in three rounds because, in addition to the poor form of the Saracens club players, whom coach Eddie Jones blindly believed in, the entire team was poorly disciplined.
France should find itself in the tournament’s strictest bio-safe bubble after its government closed its border with the British in January in an attempt to keep out the more contagious British variant of the virus. The government relented on not allowing the tricolor to play in the Six Nations until officials from the French Rugby Federation guaranteed compliance with health protocols.
Before the opening game against Italy on February 6 in Rome, the players left the hotel bubble to eat waffles. And the day after the game, Galthie went to watch his son play rugby. A week later, a day after a milestone win over Ireland in Dublin, Galthie and another employee tested positive. In the days that followed, 12 players and two other staff tested positive and the February 28 game in Scotland was postponed.
In a government-ordered internal investigation, FFR President Bernard Laporte defended Galthie – “He was outside and masked” – and the government accepted the FFR’s findings. And Laporte promised that no one would leave the hotels for the rest of the tournament.
Galthie spoke publicly for the first time since the outbreak this week, saying he doesn’t feel responsible and follows the rules. He repeated Laporte’s mantra that “there is no risk”.
After a regular quarantine, the team was freed from the virus with the bonus return of the previously injured star-backs Romain Ntamack and Virimi Vakatawa. Ntamack is in the reserves after a double broken jaw and Vakatawa is the starting center after a knee injury on the eve of the tournament.
Creative Mathieu Jalibert kept the # 10 jersey, and Lock Romain Taofifenua, flanker Dylan Cretin and wing Teddy Thomas started.
Jones’ reaction to losing to Wales by a record 40-24 was to ditch whore Jamie George and full-back Elliot Daly – both Saracens – and bail Jonny Hill. The call to Jones to select formidable club players like Max Malins, Daly’s successor, has been wasted as the coach is limited to a self-isolating squad of 28 players.
But that didn’t stop criticism of Jones for relying on his Saracens core players Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje, Mako and Billy Vunipola, George and Daly. Jones trusted their professionalism to overcome a shortage of rugby for two months in the Six Nations. But their rustiness showed and continues. Everyone had lost their game.
# 8 Billy Vunipola admitted he was playing “bullshit” ahead of the Wales game and then made the most of all strikers in Round 3 and third best in the tournament after the impact 43 yards after the impact.
Itoje has conceded 10 penalties in the tournament, five against Wales alone. Jones did not say whether Itoje was one of the “three or four” players who called him last week to take responsibility for the indiscipline, but did admit that his star lock was for extra attention from referees as well as England conceded would be marked 41 penalties in three games.
Jones also believed referees would have preconceived notions about Captain Farrell’s confrontational stance. Jones said this week that Farrell, who has been captain since 2018, was still learning to be a good one and they remained satisfied with his leadership.
Farrell led England to success in the Six Nations and Autumn Nations Cups less than six months ago, but on Saturday there is an acute risk of a third loss in four games.
England: Max Malins, Anthony Watson, Henry Slade, Owen Farrell (captain), Jonny May, George Ford, Ben Youngs; Billy Vunipola, Tom Curry, Mark Wilson, Charlie Ewels, Maro Itoje, Kyle Sinckler, Luke Cowan-Dickie and Mako Vunipola. Reserves: Jamie George, Ellis Genge, Will Stuart, Jonny Hill, Ben Earl, Dan Robson, Ollie Lawrence, Elliot Daly.
France: Brice Dulin, Teddy Thomas, Virimi Vakatawa, Gaël Fickou, Damian Penaud, Matthieu Jalibert, Antoine Dupont; Grégory Alldritt, Charles Ollivon (captain), Dylan Cretin, Paul Willemse, Romain Taofifenua, Mohamed Haouas, Julien Marchand and Cyril Baille. Reserves: Camille Chat, Jean-Baptiste Gros, Dorian Aldegheri, Cyril Cazeaux, Cameron Woki, Anthony Jelonch, Baptiste Serin and Romain Ntamack.
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