Expert witness: Nick Easter presents England vs France

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As England prepare to host France in the Fall Nations Cup final, Nick Easter joins Planet Rugby to preview the big match of the weekend.

Troubled waters

The biggest talking point heading into the final is that France will be deprived of a number of its key members after head coach Fabien Galthie confirmed he will not seek to challenge the rule that prevents players from participating in more than three international matches during the fall. period.

The legal deal with the Top 14 means Galthie will be without captain Charles Ollivon with Antoine Dupont, Gregory Alldritt, Gael Fickou, Virimi Vakatawa, Baptiste Serin, Teddy Thomas and many more. A total of 14 players are unavailable, forcing France to largely choose a second team to travel to Twickenham.

Still, Easter, a man who has won seven tests in his 10 appearances against Les Bleus, believes it doesn’t dilute the threat posed to England by their visitors.

“It’s really a win / win situation for France,” he commented.

“While the situation in which they find themselves feels the personal interest of the clubs and a general lack of empathy between the FFR and the organizers of the Top 14, this creates a lot of opportunities both for the French management and for the players themselves. themselves.

“The past weekend gave them a lot to learn about the fringe players on their team, allowing Galthie and co. to get an in-depth look at challengers like Jonathan Danty, Sekou Macalou and Cameron Woki, but also to allow these players to learn to fit into what is becoming a well-defined tactical structure, ”said Easter.

The most dangerous match

“These guys will wake up on Saturday morning with very little fear of failure. They have the opportunity to have a pop in one of the top three teams in the world, hammer and pliers, without too much pressure on the hope of winning.

“It will not have escaped the attention of French defense coach Shaun Edwards, I can assure you! He will create a physical, pacy and simple game plan, spend a few days summing up the French emotional intensity and wham !, France will come to England with a super-powerful assault backed by no real fear of failure and knowing that they ‘I have a chance as individuals to make a big statement.

“To make this worse, England only have one real point of reference, last weekend’s game against Italy, to determine what the player recipe France uses is actually going to create in terms of ‘offer to the field,’ Easter said.

“The emergence of players like Macalou does not surprise me. If I go back about four years ago, when I was still playing and the Harlequins faced Stade Français in Europe, I remember giving a presentation to the team just under Sekou’s sole threat. We recognized him as a seriously talented and dangerous back row rower, with the ability to turn a game and I think he and Cameron Woki will pressure even the excellence of skipper Charles Ollivon and Gregory Alldritt in the back row. These two guys are immensely quick, mobile and physical threats in any defense and England cannot afford to take their presence lightly, ”he concluded.

Identity crisis

“Thanks to the agreement of the Top 14, France learned a lot about their players, their style and their depth. However, the same cannot be said for England, who in my opinion are playing a much more conservative style than a year ago and appear to have retreated into an identity crisis of their defense and its kicking game rather than trying to learn anything. otherwise, ”noted the former England number eight.

“The press is full of state-of-the-game vitriol calling for law changes, more entertainment and more open rugby, but the faults are not with the laws – these are the same laws that see New Brunswick. Zealand and Australia kick the ball. around Down Under, the same regulations that see Bristol and Wasps entertaining themselves in the Premiership every week with impudence and impudence, so we have to look elsewhere to explain what drives English conservatism.

“I’m going to step back here and take a look at Eddie Jones himself. The moments I have spent with him, it is clear to me that he is deeply affected by defeat and finds it difficult to put it behind him. The 2003 Rugby World Cup final is still fresh in her mind and her reference to her is still prominent in her thoughts. He will then refer to South Africa’s victories in 2007 and 2019, in which he was involved and were won with basic simple physics around a game of kicking.

“If you look back a year ago, England played with a lot more ambition, made it to a World Cup final and were beaten by the simple game plan of South Africa. His reaction to this was to chase the head of their scrum coach, resort to a year of focus on the win line, embrace the 6/2 bench division used by Rassie Erasmus, and try to roll any side of his team with zero risk, from downpours trouble to failed kicking games.

“However, he also missed the fact that Bok’s victory was also due to an emotional intensity Jones has yet to create in the squad he coached for five years.

“At no point did he sit down and try to create a plan B to vary the tactics to beat different types of teams. He spent the whole year perfecting Plan A but at the cost of no progression in offensive ambition. With a nice six month lead up to the Six Nations Final, there was no better opportunity to use this year-end series to take advantage of the enormous amount of running talent at our disposal. , but now we see a team based entirely on kick and chase, one who abdicates the movement of the ball to the hand and one who almost ignores their own talent and skill levels due to an overwhelming phobia of not lose, rather than win.

“The delicious paradox here is that the fear of failure more often than not creates the failure itself, as players are unable to respond to positive ambitions, which then manifests itself in a complete freeze of intention to fail. ‘attack when the situation calls for it, and I’m really concerned that if things change, there is little more that Eddie’s style of micro-management can offer to move this group of actors forward, ”concluded Easter. .

Double shock

“As Sunday approaches, we are taking a path strewn with banana peels for the English team and some of them are being driven by their own regression. Make no mistake, the controlling nature we’ve seen so far has put more pressure on this team than needed. Rugby has been so bland and “win-driven” that the only metric we can apply is results-based, not style or progression.

“I can see France coming out of the traps like mad, using the double shocks of chaos and deconstruction to which England will have to react quickly. They are not a team that can be physically intimidated, so England will need precision to win, and will need to use every scoring opportunity they have to own the scoreboard, ”explained Easter.

“Anything that isn’t a perfect execution of their limited game plan will spell disaster. It is a game that France has nothing to lose and on which England is banking on its reputation.

“While England should win it will be a much tougher test than necessary and I really hope the coaching staff have focused on a game plan that is slightly more varied than what we have seen so far. now, otherwise it might be quite difficult. day at the office.

Nick Easter has played 54 times for England and scored 13 tries, including two trebles, one in his last appearance for England at the 2015 World Cup. A skillful number eight with the cricketer’s hands , its unloading and its distribution are the characteristics of a round game. Nick is now defense coach at Newcastle Falcons.

par James While



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