After a week of speculation, Lewis Moody has lost his fitness race and will be unable to play France in the game which has become known as Le Crunch. With Moody out, Tom Wood and James Haskell will keep their places on the flanks and Mike Tindall will retain the captain’s armband. Moody, who played for club Bath last weekend, reaggravated the knee injury in England training this week and was deemed unfit by Martin Johnson. Johnson is therefore left without the selection headache of dropping one of his two in form flankers to accommodate his skipper’s return. Moody will no doubt be missed, but the consistency of Johnson’s selection and the recent stellar performances of Haskell and Wood should counteract his loss.
In the front row, England are bolstered by the return of Andrew Sheridan after missing the Italy game with a neck injury. Alex Corbisiero, who made a solid debut against the Italians, will drop down to the bench. Sheridan’s return is extremely timely as he will look to overpower a dominant French front row that mercilessly pounded the Scots. Led by hooker William Servat, Sheridan will need to overcome Perpignan’s Nicolas Mas to secure the scrum for England. On the other side, Dan Cole will really look to attack Thomas Domingo, and capitalise on his excellent performance in the loose last weekend. In the backs, England remain unchanged and will be hoping Chris Ashton’s scything support running will continue; at the same time, I’m sure Martin Johnson will be expecting more production from his two powerful centres.
The French, who revealed this week that they don’t like the English (surprise!?), have rung the changes, despite two victories. Fiery full back/Wing Maxime Medard has been ruled out through injury and will be replaced by veteran Clement Poitrenaud at 15. Hairy Sebastian Chabal takes over at number 8 and former Gloucester scrum half Dmitri Yachvili will play 9 and assume the kicking duties.
The teams are set for the biggest RBS Six Nations clash of the year, and possibly the tournament decider, but who do you think will be victorious at Twickenham? My prediction: England 24-17 France with Ashton to score two more, and Toby Flood to kick England to victory in front of a raucous Twickenham.