The tabloids have had a field day with England team so far during this World Cup, although in the absence of any particular poor performances to criticise, they have instead tore into players such as Mike Tindall and Chris Ashton after off-the-field misdemeanours.
Such incidents will be quickly forgotten should Martin Johnson’s go on to reach the final of the tournament, something which looks reasonably likely after Ireland’s win over Australia meant that the top half of the draw contains teams entirely composed from the northern hemisphere.
In addition, England could not have chosen better quarter final opponents given that France lost two of their Pool A games on their way to the last eight, although Les Bleus will point to the fact that victory was not necessary against a Tonga team looking to go out of the 2011 World Cup with a bang.
Stan James (£150 free bets) offer a best price 3/5 that England defeat the French in Auckland, with the Red Rose having followed up their crushing of Romania by edging Scotland in a tight match that saw both sides go hammer and tongs.
Johnson has made several changes, with Toby Flood partnering Jonny Wilkinson and Mark Cueto back in the side after Delon Armitage’s high tackle against the Scots. The England coach insisted that selecting Flood was not a risk, saying: “It’s not a gamble. You always put a lot of thought into your selections, no more so than when you’re in a World Cup quarter-final.
“It does give us some different things that we can do on the field when we play those guys (Flood and Wilkinson)”.
There will be several punters fancying England to convincingly win this match against a French team who have had defensive problems throughout the contest and the favourites can be backed at even money (Paddy Power – £100 free betting) giving their opponents a four-point start.
France are an unpredictable beast that started the 2007 World Cup by losing to Argentina before beating New Zealand in the quarter final and they will be looking for revenge after losing to England in the semi-final four years ago.
Sportingbet offer 2/1 that Marc Lievremont’s side claim victory and it appears that the French will target Jonny Wilkinson from the off, with France flanker Julien Bonnaire claiming: “He, as well as the others, is not as good under pressure.
“It’s down to us to show more aggressiveness so that he doesn’t put his team forward. Having said that, generally speaking the English are always good against us.”