6N: Ferocious France vs. Brutal England set for Paris

PARIS (AP) — Eddie Jones wants his Rugby World Cup runner-up England to give France's young side a lesson in “absolute brutality” when they meet in their Six Nations opener on Sunday.

Some French media were shocked by the provocative and violent choice of words. But Jones suggested any offended French should knock on someone else's door for an apology.

“Well, someone asked me how we were going to play. What did you want me to say? ‘We’re going to have a cup of tea?’” Jones said on Friday. “It’s nicknamed Le Crunch, isn’t it? There’s a reason for that. Great rivalry, historical rivalry. It’s a battle for supremacy so we’re looking forward to it. I’m sure France are as well.”

Continuing his joust with a French reporter's questioning over using the word ”brutality,” Jones added: “I’m just stating the fact of how we want to play rugby, and that’s what rugby’s about. It has been ever since I watched the game and it will be as long as I watch the game."

A youthful France side has been duly warned.

Fabian Galthié's squad features four uncapped players — two in the side and two in the reserves — and six others with three caps or less. Only four players have reached 30 caps, and center Gaël Fickou is the only one to have 50.

Lock Bernard Le Roux is the only player over the age of 27, with nine of them 23 or younger.

By contrast, there are 675 caps shared among England's starting 15, with scrumhalf Ben Youngs set to play his 96th test and back-rower Courtney Lawes earning his 82nd.

England will be hunting France down at Stade de France.

“It’s a physical, confrontational game and your aim is to be brutal on the gain line,” Jones said. “You either win or lose on the gain line.”

Galthié was happy to return fire.

“You should expect a big presence on our part, total commitment, players who are going to push their limits as far as possible,” he said. “A pack which is going to give everything, ferocious phases of battle, ferocious collisions and tackles, a team which never gives in.”

It's Ferocious France vs. Brutal England, then, and the host is expected to come off second best.

Galthié, a former standout scrumhalf for Les Tricolors, is rebuilding them for the 2023 World Cup they are staging, and needs time to mould them to his liking. He's also stressed continuity, which gives new caps Anthony Bouthier at fullback and Mohamed Haouas at prop some confidence.

England, however, is far more advanced. After reaching the World Cup final three months ago, it is the favorite, knows it, and wants to show it.

“The challenge for this group is this ... teams who have been World Cup runners-up in the past, history shows they haven't performed that well in the years afterwards,” England backup scrumhalf Willi Heinz said. "It's about the players in this group taking control and not putting any limits on themselves.

"We laid some really good foundations before Japan and actually in Japan. But we know we can't waste days, and have to hit the ground running in the Six Nations. It's not about reinventing the wheel, it's about building on what we've got and making it better and better.

"We want to be brutal, we want to be powerful.”

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Lineups:

France: Anthony Bouthier, Teddy Thomas, Virimi Vakatawa, Gaël Fickou, Damian Penaud, Romain Ntamack, Antoine Dupont; Grégory Alldritt, Charles Ollivon (captain), François Cros, Bernard Le Roux, Paul Willemse, Mohamed Haouas, Julien Marchand, Cyril Baille. Reserves: Peato Mauvaka, Jefferson Poirot, Demba Bemba, Boris Palu, Cameron Woki, Baptiste Serin, Matthieu Jalibert, Vincent Rattez.

England : George Furbank, Jonny May, Manu Tuilagi, Owen Farrell (captain), Elliot Daly, George Ford, Ben Youngs; Tom Curry, Sam Underhill, Courtney Lawes, Charlie Ewels, Maro Itoje, Kyle Sinckler, Jamie George, Joe Marler. Reserves: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Ellis Genge, Will Stuart, George Kruis, Lewis Ludlam, Willi Heinz, Ollie Devoto, Jonathan Joseph.

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More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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