Les Bleus want England revenge
Published 15/03/2010 | 16:01
France will be keen to put the record straight when they take on England in Paris on Saturday with the Grand Slam up for grabs.
Defensive coach Dave Ellis insists the French have unfinished business against England, having failed to win any of the matches that really count since they triumphed at Stade de France in 2006.
"The thing you've got to realise and the message we'll pass onto the players is that we haven't beaten England in a competitive game for four years now," said Ellis, who also coaches at London Irish.
"The last time we beat them in the Six Nations was in 2006. Even though we won the two preparation games for the World Cup, they were just more or less friendly games.
"England beat us in the semi-final of the World Cup, they beat us in 2008 at Stade de France and we lost there heavily last year. So there is a bit of history there that we need to put right."
Les Bleus beat Italy 46-20 yesterday, 24 hours after England battled to a 15-15 draw in a kicking duel against Scotland at Murrayfield.
It means France have scored 13 tries in their four RBS 6 Nations games so far, eight more than a misfiring England, and few observers are giving Martin Johnson's men much hope of spoiling the party in Paris.
However, Ellis believes England remain dangerous and says the French have not forgotten last year's crushing 34-10 defeat at Twickenham.
"I think people have been underestimating the English," he said.
"They've got into a process where they're trying a new number nine playing with Wilkinson and various new players in the backline and the forward pack.
"They've not been beaten by big scores. I was at Twickenham when Ireland beat them but it could have gone either way and it was the same against Scotland.
"If things had gone right for them, they could have beaten Scotland and it could have been a different story for this week.
"England just need something to go right like it did last year when everybody was asking questions about them."
Ellis, a former rugby league man who has spent the last decade with the French national side, is impressed by the current squad, although he was not confident enough to back their Grand-Slam bid.
"It was quite concerning really that we were favourites," he said. "I saw the bookies made us 4-1 to win the Grand Slam before the tournament started.
"I don't mind a punt myself but I thought they were too short odds really.
"I couldn't understand that. But obviously bookmakers know what they're doing. They got the timing right and the odds right.
"We're just getting better and better. The players are confident. There's not been a massive amount of changes, all the changes have been enforced.
"With my experience with France in the past when you get key injuries then you start worrying but this group of players just gets on with it.
"That's what I'm seeing from my experience, being around for 10 or 11 years now. I think even though it's a very young team, you can see the maturity coming into it in the games that we've played so far.
"I think that's really encouraging."
Coach Marc Lievremont today named an unchanged squad, with Dimitri Yachvili, who replaced the injured Frederic Michalak in the group for the Italy game, retained.
The coach said: "We opted for continuity. This group is equipped to beat the English. I think the players are fresh and fit."