France skipper braces for 'ferocious' England
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: France captain Guilhem Guirado warned his side they must match the ferocity of champions England if they are to spring a Six Nations surprise in "Le Crunch" at Twickenham on Saturday.
England, who completed a Grand Slam by beating France in Paris last season, go into the opening round of the Six Nations on a 14-match winning streak.
By contrast France, while improving under coach Guy Noves, lost narrowly at home to world champions New Zealand and Australia in November.
Guirado said a tight defence and making the most of their opportunities when they have the ball - something France failed to do against the Wallabies and the All Blacks - would be key.
"We must be ready to defend," Guirado told reporters at Twickenham on Friday.
"We know England are a very efficient side with a direct approach and above all we are aware of the ferocity with which they play the game.
"We know we must be aggressive in defence and attack. In November we had a lot of ball in the middle pitch, but our problem was in the opposition 22's 'golden zone'. If we had been better at this, we would have won more games.
"We need to concentrate on keeping the ball and scoring points, even if it's with the boot."
Saturday's match will see both sides captained by hookers, with England led by Dylan Hartley in his first match for more than six weeks following suspension.
"I know that Dylan is seen as a controversial character in England, but I've played against him many times," said Guirado. "He will be faithful to himself, he loves to impose himself in a 'fight'.
"He's a leader for [England coach] Eddie Jones, I know that he will be there in the scrummaging and the rucks."
But Guirado added it was important that France focused on their own play.
"We worked hard in November and we competed well against two of the three best nations in the world, Australia and New Zealand. We know where we went wrong and we've worked hard.
"We know England have dominated their matches, but, I repeat: we are just concentrating on ourselves."
France forwards coach Yannick Bru said Saturday's latest edition of "Le Crunch" was special because of what happened last year.
"We need to keep our bearings, whoever our opponent, but 'Le Crunch' is important in the minds of players and fans," the former France hooker said.
"There's a special emotion in playing England in our first match, particularly as they beat us in the last game of [the 2016 Six Nations] to win the Grand Slam.”
England have lost several first-choice forwards through injury but Bru said France had problems up front as well.
"Don't forget we lost our two best loosehead props [Eddy Ben Arous and Jefferson Poirot] a couple of weeks before the Six Nations.
"We know that England will be competitive at the scrum on Saturday. When you have a success story with 14 wins successively, that means your set piece is very reliable so we know it will be a tough game."