• Woodward tips France as next world champs

    Former England coach Clive Woodward believes France will be able to claim the 2023 World Cup title on home soil.

    Woodward was the mastermind behind England’s last World Cup title win in 2003. Writing in his regular column for the Daily Mail, the 64-year-old explained why he thinks France could be the favourites to claim what would be their very first World Cup title in the next edition of the tournament in 2023.

    France are set to take on Ireland in the final round of the 2020 Six Nations on Saturday and a victory could have them be crowned as champions. However, England are still in the driving seat to win the Six Nations as they are level with France and have an easier fixture against Italy.

    Having watched how France tore 2019 World Cup semi-finalists Wales apart in a 38-21 warm-up win in Paris last weekend, Woodward reckons he has seen enough to say that France are going to be a force in the next three years.

    ‘All my coaching life, and now working in the media, I have viewed the southern hemisphere giants as the Test benchmark. Beat them regularly, especially away from Twickenham, and you will eventually be the world’s best,’ Woodward wrote.

    ‘As we look forward to the final weekend of the much-delayed 2020 Six Nations, however, I feel it is France who England need to measure themselves against.

    ‘Three years out from the World Cup and France, on home soil, are my tip to win it.

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    ‘The French aren’t the finished article but I see an exceptional generation of brilliant players — forwards and backs — maturing together.

    ‘Once [head coach] Fabian Galthie and [defence coach] Shaun Edwards sort out a few loose cannons up front and get on top of the discipline issue, they are going to be formidable.

    ‘I see potentially the world’s best half-back pairing in Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack, a fantastic centre pairing of Virimi Vakatawa and Gael Fickou, try-scorers like Teddy Thomas and magic players like Thomas Ramos. In the forwards, led by the amazing Camille Chat, they are big, athletic and nasty.

    ‘There are still creases to iron out but France are only going one way, as we saw in their convincing win over Wales on Saturday.’

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