France coach: England tougher than Irish
SIX NATIONS SPOTLIGHT: England are red-hot favourites to beat France in Saturday's Six Nations match at the Stade de France, beleaguered French coach Jacques Brunel has admitted.
Brunel told AFP in an interview that if his side managed to beat the Six Nations champions it would show that France, who have won just once in 11 months, had made a huge step forward.
"England have won 24 of their last 26 games, and they come here not only as red-hot favourites, they have to win here in France to win the tournament," said Brunel.
"Their results speak for themselves and they have consistently maintained a high level of performance over two years. That is what makes them favourites."
Brunel dismissed England's surprise 13-25 defeat to Scotland in their last match as a blip.
"The fact England lost in Scotland doesn't alter the amazing quality in this side, who have worked hard to acquire their strength and stability.
"They have strength to lean on, which is exactly what we lack.
"England's level is just below that of the All Blacks. Since the 2015 World Cup they have been incredible."
France on the other hand have laboured through the Six Nations, losing to Ireland and Scotland before a face-saving win against Italy.
"We are trying create this kind of leap forwards and get up to the level we should be at. So if we can beat England that would represent a significant advance."
Brunel kept faith with the 31 players who beat Italy 34-17, which is expected to be played in wet conditions.
"We'll need to be creative, but this is also going to be a huge physical challenge, they are even tougher than the Irish."