Six Nations: England to exorcise Grand Slam demons in Paris
Only once in five attempts have England entered the final match of the Six Nations chasing a Grand Slam and delivered the tournament’s glittering prize. However, the omens look good that the latest crop of red-rose wearers will not spurn another crack at glory.
It’s understandable that such a poor conversion rate would play on the minds. After all, England last cleared the final hurdle with their vintage class of 2003 and have twice since been scuppered, by Ireland in 2011 and latterly Wales in 2013.
Thirteen years on from their last success, when Ireland were swept away 42-6 in Dublin, it’s France that stand in the way over in Paris.
For anyone who has watched the two teams’ respective journeys through the 2016 edition though, even the prospect of a hostile Stade de Francais crowd shouldn’t stifle English confidence they can complete the job.
Odds of 1/3 on the visitors paint an accurate picture of their superiority during the tournament.
After scraping opening wins together in Paris, Les Bleus have subsequently been found out twice, getting comfortably beaten in Wales and Scotland last time.
Although Guy Noves has taken the French reins, he hasn’t been able to stamp any recognisable style on his squad, who’ve looked bereft of a gameplan as the Six Nations has unfolded.
Under new coach Eddie Jones meanwhile, England have grown week by week. They’ve built on tight defence, letting the battering ram that is Billy Vunipola do much of the close quarters running to gain midfield territory and spread the play at opportune moments.
England have beaten the most defenders, scored the most points and until Ireland filled their boots against Wooden Spoon collectors Italy, had gained the most metres.
Jones has kept virtually the same XV throughout. The Australian has cleverly fused some talented new faces such as second row Maro Itoje – man of the match against Wales – in with the established guys such as flanker Chris Robshaw, who is clearly revelling in his work without the pressure of the captaincy.
The head coach’s self-assurance has undoubtedly rubbed off on the whole squad.
Although the likes of new captain Dylan Hartley and a few others including Robshaw were there when England last missed out in Cardiff, this new Jones era doesn’t seem bound by the pain of the past.
If England can start the contest quickly as they did against Wales at Twickenham, it’s very doubtful France will conjure the same fighting spirit the Welsh did without the carrot of the championship on the line.
The visitors scoring the first try looks a decent bet at 4/6, while an English win by 1-12 points also appeals at 5/4.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.