By Marcus Leach
The Six Nations returns this weekend and France are now facing up to the very realistic prospect of losing the opening three games of their campaign for the first time in over thirty years.
This conclusion is reached on two fronts. One, dare we say it, England are starting to look like a very good team in the making. Their stunning victory over the All Blacks last Autumn seems to have been the catalyst they so desperately needed to push on from the solid foundations built before that famous day at Twickenham.
With plenty of youthful faces in their team head coach Stuart Lancaster has opted to stick with his charges, through thick and thin during his tenure. The result is a young team starting to bond, full of belief because they have been given the backing and time to settle into the side. The future is starting to look very bright for England.
France on the other hand are a different kettle of fish, and a marked contrast in coaching styles is evident. Admittedly they have been out of sorts in the opening two games, but the decision to once again wield the axe on fifty percent of the team that lost to Wales could well have negative connotations.
The beauty of France though, which is why so many love to watch them, is that no matter what has gone before, on their day they can turn on the French flair and beat any team in the world. Just ask New Zealand.
Time will now tell which coaching style has the best results, both in terms of the current Six Nations, and looking ahead to the 2015 Rugby World Cup. But something tells me England will see the better results as Lancaster continues to build confidence and continuity within his ranks, whilst Philippe Saint-Andre runs the risk of destroying all confidence with his constant chopping and changing.
The bookies obviously feel that France can throw the form book out of the window, as they have England and France at evens, with the draw at 20/1. A good bet could be Manu Tuilagi to score the first try at 10/1.
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