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England to muddle through

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England v France RWC 2011 QF Tomorrow morning 0830 UK time

France has yet to beat England in a rugby world cup fixture losing in 1991 (QF), 2003 (SF) and 2007 (SF) though in the dead rubber for 3rd place in 1995 France conclusively won 19-9. France has reached the finals twice in 1987 and 1999 losing to NZ and OZ. So for many of their players tomorrow marks a watershed moment given they have had such a poor start but that's nothing new they lost their opening fixture in RWC 2007 to Argentina but still made it to the semi finals. As ever with the French it'll depend which team turns up on the day (night).

England will play as they have all tournament and will try and grind out a win. It is a pity that they haven't decided to play Wilkinson and Flood as first and second five eights as the Kiwi's frequently do. Wilkinson is left footed: Flood is right and if they were to alternate at fly half according to where the scrum and line outs were they could use their passing and kicking game to greater effect.   

Martin Johnson is an intensely loyal man and and conservative in his approach to winning. The front row has been in all sorts of problems - with penalties, with poor line out throwing and technique so this is their biggest game. The back row has not functioned as a threesome and we must hope that it does tomorrow. Above all we must see Youngs dominate at scrum half.

Last Saturday's game against Scotland was the first of the equivalent of an FA Cup final and England were stronger and fitter at the end though they gave far too many penalties away. Tomorrow is another FA Cup final and if they win it they will go through to their third semi-final in a row. Few would bet against it.  


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