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Galthie says France focus fixed on Six Nations decider despite Jones’ jibes

PARIS (AFP) – France coach Fabien Galthie has insisted his side will be “ready to respond” to some typical Eddie Jones taunts when they attempt to win a first Six Nations title since 2010 by defeating England in Paris today.

Les Bleus are also bidding for a first Grand Slam in 12 years and victory over England in the final game of this season’s Championship would be a huge morale boost ahead of next year’s World Cup on home soil.

France entered this Six Nations as favourites after a November campaign that culminated with a dazzling 40-25 win over New Zealand at a raucous Stade de France.

But they were far from their attacking best in a nervous 13-9 victory away to Wales last week, for all a defence marshalled by specialist coach Shaun Edwards held firm.

None of this is lost on England boss Jones, who loves to unsettle the opposition with a few well-chosen words.

Galthie, however, speaking after naming his side, said on Thursday: “We listen and absorb what our opponents say about themselves and us. And that contributes to our work, our preparation.

France’s rugby union national team head coach Fabien Galthie and general manager Raphael Ibanez. PHOTO: AFP

“But the rendezvous is Saturday evening at the Stade de France. And we will be ready to respond.”

The former France captain, who took charge after the 2019 World Cup, added: “We have learnt from our defeats.”

Galthie has recalled Damian Penaud after the wing, who has scored three tries in this year’s tournament, missed the Wales match following a bout of coronavirus.

Former scrum-half Galthie said England had “transformed its game-play” under veteran Australian coach Jones as he recalled their 2016 Grand Slam, part of a record-equalling run of 18 successive Test wins by a leading rugby nation.

England, however, have been nowhere near those heights lately, managing just seven tries this tournament – five against perennial strugglers Italy – and they could now finish as low as fifth for a second successive Six Nations if they lose in Paris.

Jones, however, has made France 2023 his over-riding goal since guiding England to a 2019 World Cup final in Japan where they were beaten by South Africa.

But France team manager Raphael Ibanez, who spent several seasons in the English Premiership, insisted England were always “back-breakingly” tough opponents.

England, who arrived in Paris earlier than usual to simulate pre-match conditions at next year’s World Cup, go into the game after a record 32-15 home defeat by Ireland.

They played most of that match a man down, with lock Charlie Ewels sent off after just 82 seconds – the quickest red card in Championship history.

“One extra player will help,” said Jones. “You don’t have to be a genius at maths to tell you that 15 v 15 is better than 14 v 15.”

Jones has selected Nick Isiekwe to replace the banned Ewels, while recalling full-back George Furbank and veteran scrum-half Ben Youngs, with Sam Underhill replacing Tom Curry (hamstring injury) at openside flanker.

But how those England players who put in a massive physical effort against Ireland – the score was 15-15 with 20 minutes to go – back up could determine the course of today’s match.

“If they play with that intensity, spirit and tactical discipline, we’ll give ourselves a hell of a chance to win the game,” said Jones.

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