Six Nations: France heap rare praise on unchanged England side

England entertain France at Twickenham this weekend

The rite-of-passage Six Nations victory over Ireland in Dublin clarified a number of issues in the mind of Stuart Lancaster, so the England coach's decision to retain the same 23-man squad for this Saturday's meeting with France at Twickenham was straightforward enough. Lancaster released a dozen players back to their clubs last night – a mix of fringe candidates, recent newcomers and injury victims –thereby keeping faith with the usual suspects.

One outsider who might have been in line for a breakthrough selection, the young Wasps No 8 Billy Vunipola, saw his chances go west during a training stint at the team base in Surrey. Vunipola suffered an ankle injury serious enough to kill off any hope of a place on the bench against the Tricolores. He may well miss his club's Premiership trip to London Irish on Sunday into the bargain.

France, meanwhile, were being suspiciously nice about England – an unusual approach that may turn out to have had an ironic dimension. Philippe Saint-André, the coach of Les Bleus, described the title favourites as being in a "state of euphoria", adding that this weekend's contest amounted to his team's "Grand Slam" match.

Frédéric Michalak was even more generous about current red-rose fortunes. "We are going to play against one of the best teams in the world," said the outside-half, who has come under serious fire following two less than majestic performances in the pivot position. For his part, the Toulouse flanker Yannick Nyanga called England "flamboyant", which was something of a first. "They are very good at everything they set their mind to," he continued. "I have not seen many weak spots in their game. To be fair, I have not seen any."

Wales, meanwhile, will face Italy in Rome with a stronger bench than usual, thanks to the presence of the Lions lock Alun Wyn Jones, fresh back from injury, and the displaced captain Sam Warburton, who must quickly find a way of re-establishing himself as a serious force in international rugby if he wants to revive his chances of leading the Lions in Australia.

"Having that experience and potential impact will be so important," said Rob Howley, who is shouldering the head coach duties while Warren Gatland concentrates on Lions selection. "Sam will go on to play many games for Wales, and captain Wales. He is the ultimate professional."

Italy will discover today whether their captain, the magnificent No 8 Sergio Parisse, will be available to them. Parisse must appear before a disciplinary tribunal in Paris after receiving a red card for allegedly insulting the referee Laurent Cardona during a French league game last weekend.

News
i100'Geography can be tough'
News
newsVideo targets undecided voters
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Pixie Lott will take part in Strictly Come Dancing 2014, the BBC has confirmed
tv
Life and Style
Cooked up: reducing dietary animal fat might not be as healthy as government advice has led millions of people to believe
healthA look at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?
Rachael Lander interview: From strung out to playing strings

From strung out to playing strings

Award-winning cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by the alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow and Ellie Goulding
The science of saturated fat: A big fat surprise about nutrition?

A big fat surprise about nutrition?

The science linking saturated fats to heart disease and other health issues has never been sound. Nina Teicholz looks at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
Emmys 2014 review: Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars

Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars?

The recent Emmy Awards are certainly glamorous, but they can't beat their movie cousins
On the road to nowhere: A Routemaster trip to remember

On the road to nowhere

A Routemaster trip to remember
Hotel India: Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind

Hotel India

Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind
10 best pencil cases

Back to school: 10 best pencil cases

Whether it’s their first day at school, uni or a new project, treat the student in your life to some smart stationery
Arsenal vs Besiktas Champions League qualifier: Gunners know battle with Turks is a season-defining fixture

Arsenal know battle with Besiktas is a season-defining fixture

Arsene Wenger admits his below-strength side will have to improve on last week’s show to pass tough test
Pete Jenson: Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought

Pete Jenson: A Different League

Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought
This guitar riff has been voted greatest of all time

The Greatest Guitar Riff of all time

Whole Lotta Votes from Radio 2 listeners
Britain’s superstar ballerina

Britain’s superstar ballerina

Alicia Markova danced... every night of the week and twice on Saturdays
Berlin's Furrie invasion

Berlin's Furrie invasion

2000 fans attended Eurofeurence
‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

Driven to the edge by postpartum psychosis