Jones’ England back-row selection ‘funny & amazing’

Jones' England back-row selection 'funny & amazing'
Courtney Lawes has won 64 caps for England
Six Nations: France v England
Venue: Stade de France, Paris Date: Saturday, 10 March Kick-off: 16:45 GMT
Coverage: Live on BBC One and BBC Radio 5 live, plus live text commentary on BBC Sport website and app.

England head coach Eddie Jones’ decision to pick the same back row that faced Scotland when they meet France has been described as “funny and amazing” by former flanker Serge Betsen.

England conceded nine turnovers at the breakdown as they lost 25-13 to Scotland in their previous Six Nations outing.

Jones has kept faith with Courtney Lawes, Chris Robshaw and Nathan Hughes for the trip to the Stade de France in Paris on Saturday.

“It’s really funny Jones has challenged the back row to beat France with that style of play,” Betsen, who won 63 caps for France between 1997 and 2007, told BBC Sport.

“France will target the breakdown and are going to follow what Scotland managed to do against England.

“In the back row England have got some second rows who maybe have less speed and who are really tall. It’s a handicap for them in that aspect of the game.

“The French forwards are really effective in that area and especially a player like [prop] Jefferson Poirot.

“Wenceslas Lauret and Yacouba Camara are experts in the back row and Marco Tauleigne will bring a lot of dynamism in open play.”

England have the worst success rate at the ruck of all the teams in the 2018 Six Nations

Robshaw was the only one of the three to claim a turnover against Scotland, with fellow flanker Lawes conceding three.

Over the first three rounds of the 2018 tournament, England have the worst success rate of all the Six Nations sides at the ruck.

“At the moment, with the players we have available, this is the best back row we have,” Jones told BBC Radio 5 live.

“Technically we got the breakdown wrong against Scotland and they were much better than us in that area, but we’ll get it right for France.

“We didn’t adjust to the referee’s interpretations, which is disappointing and something we can learn from.”

Bastareaud back with a bang

Mathieu Bastareaud returned from a three-week ban in France’s victory over Italy at the Stade de France

England will face a France side buoyed by the return to form of centre Mathieu Bastareaud.

At over 19st, he is the heaviest back in this year’s Championship, but he won a game-high four turnovers in the 34-17 win over Italy in Paris.

Bastareaud made a rampant return to midfield against the Azzurri – his first Six Nations appearance since 2015 – setting up one try and scoring another.

The 29-year-old, who has won 43 caps, spent more than two years out of the international set-up between 2015 and 2017.

He also missed the opening two rounds of this year’s tournament after being banned for three weeks a for a homophobic slur.

“The way he played against Italy, you could see he’d had to wait for that,” Toulon team-mate and England wing Chris Ashton told Matt Dawson’s Rugby Show.

“He had to wait some time to get back in and get a starting place. He took his chance and played unbelievably well.”

‘Like Rocky on a moped’

Bastareaud’s expertise at the breakdown is another element England must contain if they are to keep their hopes of a third successive Six Nations title alive on Saturday.

“The only way you can target Bastareaud is by making the game fast,” said Ashton.

“If they manage to do that then I think there could be areas in and around the whole French team.”

Asked about Bastareaud’s personality off the pitch, Ashton said: “He’s quite quiet day to day. He picks his moments when he’s lively and he’s well respected in the team.

“This season he’s been our captain and done a good job for us.

“He rides a small moped to training and everybody that sees him on it waves to him. It’s almost like Rocky going through the streets from the film.”

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