Its very seldom I tip against England, if ever as I just can never see England losing at Rugby , mainly because more often than not their strength in depth and talent should generally see the through, but I must confess I make France the favourites this afternoon in Paris.
I work a lot in France at the moment , love French rugby, follow it closely and know some of the big hitters not least the man in ultimate control Bernard Laporte. The job as head coach to France is the only rugby job I have spoken seriously to anybody about since leaving England in 2004 but it was clear there was a real reluctance to appoint and non-French person as Head Coach.
For me coaching France was potentially the last great rugby challenge – they have the talent and getting France over the line to win a World Cup was an amazing challenge and prospect.
Fabien Galthie (R) and Shaun Edwards (L) have a great challenge on their hands with France
I have been as bemused as anybody at their total inability to perform consistently over the last decade. They won a Grand Slam in 2010 and reached a World Cup Final in 2011 but since then have been chronic underperformers at Test level.
Their club scene is arguably the most vibrant in the world and throughout that period they have had amazing players to call on but time and time again they have spluttered or self destructed, the last being at RWC2019 when they should have won their quarter-final against Wales by 15 points or more.
I suspect that might change this season and a win over England on Sunday would kick start that process. They have a golden generation of youngsters, a back division to die for and all the hope and optimism and hope that comes with regime change. Fabian Galthie is in charge now and I wish him well , with Shaun Edwards a key appointment driving the team on at training. Edwards is an out and out winner and very demanding, he will bring so much to this French squad and the new generation.
The pressure is on England head coach Eddie Jones in the Six Nations opener in Paris
The manager Rapahel Ibanez knows his stuff and enjoyed a good stint playing in England to broaden his mind and knows that sometimes the French way is not good enough and has to be refined a little organisation and discipline. France will be nervous and keyed up at the stade this afternoon but not as nervous as England who I feel are the team under pressure.
This game is huge for Eddie Jones England. Win and they can reflect that their World Cup final no show was probably just a blip, a really nasty bump in the road for a young squad. Lose and all the doubts will kick start again. It will be like going back to square one.
England have added to that pressure a little by picking players out of position. I'm not against that per se, bold moves and out of the box thinking can pay off, but France in Paris is a pretty exalted level to start experimenting. If England dont hit the gorund running on Sunday, it has the potentinal to unravel.
For me Courtney Lawes is a world class lock not a blindside flanker and Tom Curry is possibly the world's best