• February 9, 2023

Matt Dawson column: France win was a lightbulb moment for England

Saturdays win against France was a lightbulb moment for England.

There is something that clicked for them that they previously missed in the Six Nations 2021.

A lot has come together that England has obviously been working on for a while.

It took a slight change in the setting and orientation of the stars – and they did. England deserves credit for that.

The players showed a lot of personal pride in the way they played the game. It looked like everyone had one long hard look in the mirror for two weeks after losing to Scotland and Wales.

Each person looked at what brings them to the English environment, then went out and showed it against France.

Now the question is whether they have the confidence and the mental capacity to do this in every single game to bottle whatever it took to get them to think that way against France. I think they do.

I felt for England fans because the roof would have been in front of Twickenham if they had been there but hopefully they still loved seeing it from home.

It was sensational rugby. If this is what the games for the 2023 World Cup look like in the next few years, then we have a great time ahead of us.

“England’s superstars gave superstar moments”

England’s superstar players gave them superstar moments. There were Mako and Billy Vunipola, Maro Itoje, Tom Curry, short breaks from Ben Youngs and George Ford in the face of the opposition.

Owen Farrell’s intensity on defense and the general pace of work were impressive. Anthony Watson gave small moments of momentum. You can see how they make the team how they are supposed to play.

That’s how they want to play for England. You don’t want to step on the pits all the time and wait for a counterattack. They want to be a little more Harum Scarum.

Youngs, in particular, looked like someone bumped him with a pound of cattle. I’m sure this was partly because everyone had been talking about Antoine Dupont, half of the French Scrum, all week.

He would also have looked over his shoulder and seen that Elliot Daly and Jamie George had been demoted to the bench.

It will be very easy to tell the game is drifting away from Youngs but he always had the skills, eye for a void and a great engine.

“Changed style hard to fault”

The intensity, the discipline and the way England wanted to play looked so free flowing and enjoyable.

It’s hard to fault because France is a quality team and they balance fire with fire.

England followed, bounced straight back and got control of the game. Then on death they came from behind to win with Itoje’s late attempt.

They proved to us that this squad is capable of executing games strategically.

England’s players and coaches realized that the teams quickly adapted to their style of play.

They now know that England will fight if a team is in the front because they didn’t have the attitude before that they were really playing from somewhere.

England has the ability. I think the mistake for me was that head coach Eddie Jones thought his team needed to return to the traditional English strength of forward dominance.

Now he has realized that we also have fantastic backs.

What was really impressive was the way England switched styles during the game. In the first half, both sides threw the sink at it and played from everywhere.

Then England realized in the second half that France was getting tired and they were going more for the power play.

They tested whether France still had this accuracy 20 minutes before the end. France made some mistakes and England did not go overboard.

They scored their goals, they didn’t hesitate. They played in the opposition 22.

Their decisions about the schedule and the pace they wanted to play at were different in the second half.

While the first half was an absolute attempt to bring France to their knees, the second half was more about doing whatever it takes to win.

“Wales should win the Grand Slam”

England may have highlighted for everyone else how to play against France, how to mix it up tactically and how to deal with Dupont.

They will never be able to suppress them, but they put the right pressure on the main French decision-makers – especially in the second half.

That could help Wales if they want to do a Grand Slam in Paris next weekend. It’s going to be an amazing game.

France has a lot to play. With their postponed game against Scotland pending, they are still in control of their destiny for winning the championship.

I was very impressed with Wales’ victory in Rome earlier on Saturday. I know it was against Italy, but they looked really good.

Like England, Wales could play against France in the first half. You have this killer instinct and the confidence to do it. So I’ll probably go towards Wales and win the Grand Slam.

Matt Dawson spoke to BBC Sport’s Becky Gray.

Six nations table with Wales P 4 W 4 D 0 L 0 PD 63 B 3 pts. 19;  France P 3 W 2 D 0 L 1 PD 39 B 2 point 10;  England P 4 W 2 D 0 L 2 PD 5 B 2 pt 10;  Ireland P 3 W 1 D 0 L 2 PD 31 B 3 point 7;  Scotland P 2 W 1 D 0 L 1 PD 4 B 1 point 5;  Italy P 4 W 0 D 0 L 2 PD -142 B 0 points 0France’s game against Scotland – originally scheduled for February 28 – has been postponed to a later date following a Covid outbreak in the French campAll about the BBC soundsAll about the BBC footer - sounds

Jack

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