It seemed to me that England were over-confident from the start on Saturday. They seemed to think they were already in the semi-final. They felt there big challenge was to come. They were not ready for the game that the French brought with them last Saturday at Eden Park.
The French arrived on the pitch with a warrior spirit, immense passion …and huge aggression!
That is what you need at this stage of a major tournament. Do or die not wait and see.
But for all that the French were brilliantly self controlled. At set piece we saw France really well organised, playing with confidence, accuracy, speed and pace lead by Harinourdoquy.
At the scrum I felt that Mas, Poux and Servat were outstanding and each of them delivered a great game. In rugby, the game starts in front and they fronted up in a way that England could not match.
But perhaps more than all of that was the togetherness of the group which you could see from before the game to the end of the match.
They talked a lot. They never for a moment stopped supporting of each other!
They played as a unit, being really aggressive.
But not everything was perfect and they will need to improve again to progress. In the break down, they contested all the rucks but without managing to steal the ball, which they will need to do
And at times their defence organisation was very poor. Tuilagi broke too many tackles and passed through the defence line. They cannot afford that in the next match.
But they are through and England have gone home. For now that is all that counts.
How are France going to play to win this Saturday?
They must keep their momentum, speed ball on set piece and composure on the break down like Harinordoquy and Yachvili did sometimes
during Saturday’s game.
They need to have a lot of variations/combinations like they had last Saturday at the scrum and line out. They need to be really
well organised in defence, and to communicate a lot. They need to make sure that they stop nb 12 Jamie Roberts because he is a great
ball carrier breaking the defence line like Tuilagi.
They need to make sure:
That they are efficient in defence, one on one.
That they have a good line speed !
That they have good communication between forwards and backs!
No penalties, no soft penalties!