England may not have impressed their own supporters in recent weeks, but on this side of the Channel there is little danger of Martin Johnson's men being shown a lack of respect. As Marc Lievremont announced just one change in his team for Saturday's Six Nations finale - Mathieu Bastareaud, having been rested against Italy, replaces David Marty at centre - the French coach said today that England could provide France with their toughest test of the tournament.
France are chasing the Grand Slam against an England team whose own hopes of winning the championship evaporated when they struggled to draw with Scotland last weekend, but Lievremont is well aware of his team's recent record against the old enemy. Not only have England put France out of the last two World Cups but they have also beaten them in the last three Six Nations Championship. Last year England won 34-10 at Twickenham.
Lievremont described England as 'the betes noires who traditionally like to break the dreams of France teams.' Only a remarkable combination of results could deny France the championship, but Lievremont said it would be 'a huge disappointment' to secure the title without winning the Grand Slam.
He added: "England are a team with enormous potential. They are capable of better, even if they have only shown that intermittently during this tournament. We know they have the players who can hurt us, who can punish us in many different ways, whether it's by playing a direct game or hitting us on the counter-attack with quick and powerful players. That's what happened last year at Twickenham.' Lievremont said that Marty had been unlucky to lose his place after scoring two tries against Italy at the weekend. "David put on a great display, but we don't forget Mathieu's very good matches at the beginning of the tournament," the coach said.Reuse content