George Ford will not underestimate a fearless France side

George Ford knows from England’s most recent tour to Argentina that France’s shadow team will approach the Autumn Nations Cup final unburdened by fear.

Les Blues are missing the entire starting XV that sent Eddie Jones’ men spinning to their only defeat of the year in Paris with 25 front-line internationals unavailable because of an agreement struck with the Top 14 clubs.

It means France will be fielding their third choice in some positions when they run out at Twickenham on Sunday.

England fielded a similarly inexperienced side when they toured Argentina in 2017 yet they won the Test series 2-0 while giving Tom Curry and Sam Underhill – now mainstays of the back row – their first caps.

“That tour certainly brought the best out of us. It’s a motivating factor and it’s one we’re well aware of as a team,” Ford said.

“We had 11 uncapped players, 11 guys who had got the opportunity to play for their country for the first time. It was almost like ‘let’s go for this, no fear’.

“It’s an unbelievable privilege to play for your country. Whether it’s your first cap or you’re very inexperienced, whenever you’re given an opportunity it’s something you build your whole career for.

“That’s what it will be like against these guys at the weekend. They’ve got an opportunity to represent their nation.

Sam Underhill (left) and Tom Curry (right) were given their debuts by Eddie Jones
Sam Underhill (left) and Tom Curry (right) were given their debuts by Eddie Jones (Adam Davy/PA)

“Every time you pull the shirt on you want to be at your best and prove a point individually and as a team. I’d imagine it would be the same for them.

“Whoever they pick or select they’re going to be dangerous. They’ll be one of the best teams in the world regardless and are one of the most improved teams in the world.

“They’ve got some strength in depth there now. I was watching some individuals who could potentially play at the weekend and they’re very good players in their own right. We’ve got to pay that the utmost respect.

“They’ll be coming here chomping at the bit. We’ve got to expect the best French side to turn up at Twickenham on Sunday.”

It’s a special sight, isn’t it? 🤩

Sunday’s Final between @englandrugby & @francerugby will be played at Twickenham in front of 2,000 fans! 🥳#AutumnNationsCuppic.twitter.com/COhhJomHSI

— Autumn Nations Cup 🏉 (@autumnnations) December 3, 2020

England and France name their starting XV on Friday morning with Ford expected to continue at fly-half following his successful recovery from an Achilles injury.

Even allowing the selection constraints affecting the visitors, Ford expects a stiff challenge especially with Shaun Edwards overseeing their defence.

“France are very good defensively now obviously with Shaun Edwards there,” the Leicester fly-half said.

“Shaun brings a very, very energised, aggressive defence. Lots of line speed, getting off the line, wanting to force errors. It fires them up in terms of winning collisions as well.

“Shaun’s record speaks for itself. Any defensive team coached by him will be up for the challenge.

“France have got some really good kickers in the game as well, but it’s an offload, a turnover, a high ball that bobbles everywhere that brings them alive, it really does.

“One offload and 15 French guys with blue shirts come alive – they’re ready, they’re off and that makes them unbelievably dangerous. We need to be at our best.”

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