Picamoles vs Vunipola

MARK SALTER looks at the battle between France No 8 Louis Picamoles and England's Billy Vunipola.


The France No 8 is now a veteran of 38 Tests, and is Philippe Saint-André's go-to man when he wants to add power to the scrum. He was injured during the France tour of New Zealand last year, but was recalled for the squad to play against South Africa, only to be dropped in final selection. He showed he was back to great form in club rugby, particularly when Toulouse swept aside Saracens two weeks ago – the back three of Picamoles, Thierry Dusautoir (now injured) and France blindside flanker Yannick Nyanga outstanding on both attack and defence. Nonetheless, it is to Picamoles, alongside scrumhalf Jean-Marc Doussain, that France will look to provide the gainline attack to release a heavyweight backline against England, the one area where the French feel they have the edge.


With such a young backline outside them, England are obviously looking to establish a solid platform at the scrum – and trust to the boot of Owen Farrell – to provide the go-forward momentum. And here is where the powerful Australian-born Tongan comes in. In his short experience (age 21, five caps) he has provided England with a versatile and mobile option which they are not afraid to use, plus he was in the Saracens side that was overwhelmed and thrown back by the Picamoles-led offensive. Vunipola says he has learned from that experience and translated that into a plan for England. He admits that England, in the face of such a juggernaut, will have to be smarter about where and how they attack, and find a way to dilute the influence of the France No 8. He is the man.

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