Courtney Lawes draws inspiration from Martin Johnson’s book to give England hope for upset
Red Rose captain told coach to rip up training schedule – just like Johnno did before England beat France in 2003 World Cup semi-final
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England will be hoping lightning strikes twice and tearing up their training plan will bring another famous victory over France, writes Alex Spink in Paris .
Team captain Courtney Lawes revealed he went to coach Eddie Jones on Monday and told him his players were running empty after playing against Ireland with 14 men.
It reflects a decision made by Martin Johnson 19 years ago in the week of the World Cup semi-final against France in Sydney.
In 2003, Johnson told Clive Woodward he was “extremely concerned” about his England side’s fatigue midway through their quarter-final against Wales.
He persuaded Woodward to slack off training altogether, which resulted in a refreshed England upsetting the odds against the favorites French.
Lawes had much the same conversation with Jones following the valiant, if ultimately futile, effort from his team’s fullback.
“Coming up emotionally after a game like Ireland takes a long time,” said the skipper.
“We spoke to Eddie as a leadership group and made sure he realized what an emotional blow it was to play in a game where you absolutely have to give your all.
“We want to come out the right way, we want to perform this weekend. To do this, you need to make sure to recharge yourself emotionally, mentally and physically.
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“If we hit each other throughout the week, it’s a lot harder to come back up emotionally.”
Jones responded to his players’ concerns by coming up with a revised plan, the team bosses “made some adjustments” and England arrived on matchday “really happy” with the result.
Whether that leads to them putting France to the sword, as Johnson’s glorious team did in Australia, is open to question.
This England side are battling to avoid consecutive fifth-place finishes and face opponents in search of a Grand Slam.
They have also changed a lot, with Jones cutting a third of his starting squad, including betting that reliable full-back Freddie Steward is suddenly a better bet on the wing.
Woodward scored the switch, which sees George Furbank parachute to the rear, a “hail call” with just a 10% chance of success.
The last four times France have played a Grand Slam on home soil, they have delivered – most recently against England in 2010.
The visitors played all the rugby that day as the Blues tightened under pressure. Jones is betting on more of the same.
“We know the crowd at the Stade de France can either be overwhelmingly positive – or quite calm,” he said.
“When they’re quiet it can be quite eerie and the silence can turn into boos. Hopefully we can get them to the end of the negative side.
Hope is all England has left.
“An injured beast like England is always dangerous,” observed France center Gael Fickou. “But they won’t be the team of the year either.”
France: Jaminet; Penaud, Fickou, Danty, Villiere; Ntamack, Dupont (captain); Baille, Marchand, Atonio, Woki, Willemse, Cros, Jelonch, Alldritt.
Replacements: Mauvaka, Gros, Haouas, Flament, Taofifenua, Cretin, Lucu, Ramos.
England: Furbank; Steward, Marchant, Slade, Nowell; Smith, Youngs; Genge, George, Stuart, Itoje, Isiekwe, Lawes (captain), Underhill, Simmonds.
Replacements: Marler, Dolly, Sinckler, Chessum, Dombrandt, Randall, Ford, Daly