Mentally fragile French could 'fold fairly easily' says England's Palmer

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The Independent Online

Tom Palmer has urged England to prey on France's mental fragility in Saturday's Rugby World Cup quarter-final. The England lock has spent the last two years playing for Stade Français and understands the French psyche better than anyone in the red rose squad.

France, who lost to Tonga last weekend, appear to be in a state of disarray, with coach Marc Lièvremont openly criticising his players and vice versa.

Comparisons have been drawn between Lièvremont's squad and the French football team, who went on strike at the 2010 World Cup after Nicolas Anelka was sent home.

The French players are understood to have held a summit meeting yesterday to try to bring a sense of unity to the squad ahead of the encounter with England.

Palmer believes that could make them dangerous – but he also knows how damaging a fast start from England could be to their belief. "From my knowledge of French guys and what their psyche is like, it tends to be that if things don't go their way they do make quite a lot out of it," said Palmer. "It happens to the French. Look at their football team in the World Cup.

"In my first season at Stade, we weren't particularly mentally strong and if things started to go wrong then we folded fairly easily.

"You can just feel [in] your team [when] people aren't supporting you, people aren't talking, people just go missing a little bit. But France will be hugely committed to this match. They'll see this as another chance.

"It would be foolish of us to think, 'They lost to Tonga, they'll lose again'. They'll raise their game."

England will need to do the same after battling their way into the quarter-finals with a 16-12 victory over Scotland.

The England manager, Martin Johnson, named his side to play France overnight, with Jonny Wilkinson set to continue at fly-half and Mike Tindall expected to shake off a dead leg.