Daily Mail

We will tweak things if Marcus starts at 10. He’s a brilliant player


I SPENT almost 20 years of my life living in Chiswick, just up the road from Twickenham, so it means a lot to me to come and coach on the hallowed turf.

It is the game everyone wants tickets for. We are only allowed to buy four so I’ve invited a gentleman called Graham Moore, who drives my dad from his care home to his hospital appointmen­ts. They don’t come cheap because it is such a special game, but he is worth it.

Over the years, I’ve had a lot of success at Twickenham with Wasps, some with Wales but none yet with France. France always perform well there but victory has been pretty elusive. You have to go back to 2005 for our last Six Nations win in England. We know it will be a very tactical game. We are well aware that Steve Borthwick’s teams are difficult to play against. It is very difficult to get field position in their half and they transfer the ball into the other half exceptiona­lly well. Their kicking and exit strategies are hugely discipline­d. Your first battle is getting into their 22, where 75 per cent of tries start from, then you need to turn that mini victory into a bigger one. You really have to earn your opportunit­ies, whether that is a scrum, a lineout or a counter ruck. It will come down to tactics as much as emotion and physicalit­y. Part of your role as a coach is to predict how the opposition will play and coach accordingl­y. We have prepared as if England will pick Owen Farrell at 10 and Ollie Lawrence at 12 but I’m aware there are reports suggesting otherwise. I won’t lose any sleep over it. Sometimes you guess wrongly but most of the time you get it right. If you try to be prepared for every eventualit­y, all of your sessions will be three hours long!

If Marcus Smith is at 10, our attack coach might change a couple of starter plays but it is just small tweaks. Whoever the opposition is, you have still got to have a contest at the breakdown. Getting our own fundamenta­ls right is more important than details about the opposition.

I’m a huge admirer of Farrell. He has won three European Cups — not many No 10s have done that. Anyone who watches Smith knows he is a brilliant young player. Lawrence has been fantastic, finally showing what he can do on the internatio­nal stage. His style of play is suited to Test rugby. He is physical, intelligen­t and picks the right people to run at. Any No 10 would love having someone with that presence outside him. I’ve played in that position myself and having a big centre outside you makes your job a whole lot easier. Typically, you want a 10 on the bench who offers a different style to the starter. We have that in Romain Ntamack and Matthieu Jalibert. Romain is a bit bigger and stronger while Jalibert is a bit more like Smith. Sometimes you shadow the opposition’s changes but that is more relevant to the forwards. If they change their front row, then you change your front row. Look at South Africa’s Bomb Squad coming on against Wales at the 2019 World Cup, they won a couple of penalties at the scrum and lineout and we lost by three points.

We are under no illusions about the size of the task ahead. We were disappoint­ed to lose to Ireland but I was pleased with how we responded against Scotland.

Our squad has been stretched a lot. We have been without two of our best defensive players in Jonathan Danty and Gabin Villiere — although Danty is back to fitness — and now we are missing four or five front-row forwards. It has been a big test of our depth but we will be better for it come the World Cup.

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