England head coach Stuart Lancaster warns France will provide a stern test
Last Updated: February 21, 2013 11:26pm
Stuart Lancaster is predicting France to come out firing against England
England head coach Stuart Lancaster will take nothing for granted as his side prepare to host struggling France at Twickenham on Saturday.
The Red Rose have made three changes to the side that beat Ireland 12-6 in Dublin to retain hopes of a Six Nations Grand Slam, with Manu Tuilagi, Dylan Hartley and Courtney Lawes relegating Billy Twelvetrees, Tom Youngs and James Haskell to the bench.
France make the journey across the Channel in dire straits having lost to Italy and Wales in their tournament-opening fixtures - but Lancaster is sure they have enough quality to raise their game.
He said: "It's interesting to see the French team and the changes they've made. It's clearly a high quality French side coming to Twickenham and we're really looking forward to the game.
"You go through the list of names, their caps and their experience and there are some very good players who've played in very big games for club and country.
"You can see the shape they're trying to play and you can see their attacking patterns from previous games. There is lots of footage to look at - not just the last two games but they beat Argentina and they beat Australia."
Lancaster also explained the reasoning behind the trio of changes as Northampton forwards Hartley and Lawes return to the starting XV alongside Leicester centre Tuilagi, who faces Mathieu Bastareaud in a titanic midfield match-up.
Lancaster added: "There are three key components to this game - the set-piece, winning the gain line and the second half, particularly the last 20 minutes. Manu gives us a good gain line option.
"Dylan has been patient and sometimes the player sat on the sidelines want to prove a point. It's about finding the right time to put us in. Dylan is one of our most experienced players, is a bigger man than Tom, and that'll help in the set piece.
"Also, part of the equation is Tom's dynamic and I'm sure he'll make an impact in the second half.
"Courtney brings a lot more than a lineout presence. He's one of our best defenders, can counter attack and has a point to prove.
"I think the lineout is a significant part of the game so to have good lineout ball and get across the gainline, he definitely offers us options there, but if you look at us defensively.
"If you're looking down our lineout in terms of defence and you see Parling, Launchbury and Lawes, there are options to defend. France put a big emphasis on set piece and drive well off lineouts.
"I don't think this game will be won or lost in the first half. As the second half unfolds, we've got Mako Vunipola, Tom Youngs, Danny Care, Billy Twelvetrees to come on as the game opens up. We don't see it as a 15-man game - we see it as a squad."