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England must exploit fragile France

October 5th, 2011 by · No Comments · Features

Tom Palmer - they don't like it up em

• Lock Tom Palmer says French unrest could help England
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Tom Palmer has urged England to prey on France’s mental fragility in Saturday’s Rugby World Cup quarter-final. The lock has spent the past two years playing for Stade Français and understands the French psyche better than anyone else in the England squad.

France, who lost to Tonga last weekend, appear to be in a state of disarray, with the coach Marc Lièvremont openly criticising his players and vice versa. Comparisons have been drawn between Lièvremont’s squad and the France football team, who went on strike at the 2010 World Cup after Nicolas Anelka was sent home.

The France rugby players are understood to have held a summit meeting in a bid to bring a sense of unity to the squad ahead of the showdown with England. Palmer believes that could make them dangerous – but he also knows how damaging a fast start from England could be to their opponent’s belief.

“From my knowledge of French guys and what their psyche is like, it tends to be that if things don’t go their way or things aren’t going too well they do make quite a lot out of it,” said Palmer.

“It happens to the French. Look at their football team in the World Cup as well. In my experience, especially my first season in France at Stade, we weren’t particularly mentally strong as a group and if things started to go wrong then we folded fairly easily. You can just feel when your team, people aren’t supporting you, people aren’t talking, people just go missing a little bit.

“But France will be hugely committed to this match. They’ll see this as another chance. Things haven’t gone too well, they lost two games in the pool, but they are still in a quarter-final. All that has come before them is kind of irrelevant now because it’s a one-off match. I imagine that once they understand that. It’s a huge motivation for them. It would be foolish of us to think ‘they lost to Tonga, they’ll lose again’. They’ll raise their game for us.”

England will need to do the same after battling their way into the quarter-finals with a 16-12 victory over Scotland, in which Palmer made a telling contribution off the bench. “I think there is more to come from England,” he said. “The best we’ve played in the whole period was that [warm-up] game against Ireland and we need to go and replicate that. The second half against Scotland we actually played some very good stuff.”

The England manager Martin Johnson will name his side to play France overnight, with Jonny Wilkinson set to continue at fly-half. Wilkinson eased concerns over an elbow injury by taking part in training, although Mike Tindall missed the session with a dead leg.

 

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