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Nic Ladds 14th Mar 2009 - 17:38

Angry England can vent frustrations on France

England find themselves 11/10 outsiders for when they face 5/6 shots France at Twickenham and there is reason for optimism in the England camp.

Everyone remembers Martin Johnson's reaction as yet another English player was yellow-carded in the game against Ireland and it has been well documented England have been working hard on their discipline.

While this was meant to be ironed out before the tournament, problems clearly still remain and an intense couple of weeks working with Premiership referees Wayne Barnes and Andrew Small could finally do the trick.

It will need to work, as it would appear England's chances hang on whether they can keep 15 men on the field for the whole game or not.

On the handicap, England are receiving a two point start from the French at odds of 10/11 while France are also 10/11 in the betting giving up two points.

This is going to be a bruising encounter with Simon Shaw called up for England in place of Nick Kennedy. The general feeling is that captain Steve Borthwick should have been the one to make way but Johnson feels it is worth sticking with his captain despite his indifferent form.

Also making way is James Haskell for Tom Croft which is a slightly puzzling move as Haskell was one of the best at winning loose ball while Croft provides more options in the line-out which are not needed due to Borthwick's and Shaw's presence.

France have also rung in some changes with Sebastien Chabal coming in at flanker in place of Fulgence Ouedraogo.

This has surprised many as the latter has been in excellent form this tournament and is excellent at breaking up opposition play which Chabal, along with fellow back rowers Thierry Dusautoir and Imanol Harinordoquy do not excel at.

This does make the French back row fearsome ball carriers though which is demonstrated by the fact both Dusautoir and Harinordoquy have crossed the line this tournament and are 25/1 and 20/1 respectively to score the first try with Chabal also at odds of 25/1.

For England, Delon Armitage has managed to score twice and will appeal to many at 16/1 to score first, with Mark Cueto 11/1 and the freshly called up Ugo Monye 12/1 in the betting.

For France, Cedric Heymans got his first try of the tournament last time and is 11/1 for first try with the so far disappointing Julien Malzieu 12/1.

It is questionable how much ball the wings will see though with some big battles in the pack and big battles in the centre of the pitch and with this historically being quite a low-scoring game, the war could be won by who can keep the ball most efficiently and who can keep most men on the pitch.

If this is to be tight, a winning margin of 1-5 in England's favour may appeal at 9/2 with 6-10 available at odds of 6/1 or for those optimists, a repeat of England's 2001 29-point victory over the French, 26-30 is 33/1.

France are similarly priced with a 1-5 points victory being the favourite at 9/2 with 6-10 at 11/2. Should England lose their heads then France could take advantage and run a few points in so an investment on a winning margin like 16-20 at 11/1 could be added to the portfolio.

This game is unlikely to be pretty and will no doubt be brutal, and will be the perfect test to see if England can get their tempers and unnecessary fouling under control.

If they can keep all players on the field for the majority of the game England can win this. France know they can still win the title if they win here and they do have quite a good record at Twickenham.

This French side is not fulfilling its undoubted potential so far and while they beat Wales, that was in France against an out of sorts Welsh team which was completely stripped down for the Italy match.

Hopefully this will be a turning point for England and victory will give fans at least a sign that they are on the right track.

Defeat will bring more scrutiny on Johnson, the ill-disciplined team, and surely end the reign of under-fire captain Borthwick and England know that while they can win this, in reality they desperately need to.

England - 11/10

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