England v France: Avenging England set sights on winning Autumn Nations Cup

England
England completed their final training at Twickenham in heavy rain on Friday night
Autumn Nations Cup final - England v France
Venue: Twickenham Date: Sunday, 6 December Kick-off: 14:00 GMT
Coverage: Live on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra, BBC Sounds, the BBC Sport app and website with live text commentary

England will attempt to round off 2020 by clinching the inaugural Autumn Nations Cup and taking revenge on an under-strength France at Twickenham.

England have won seven of eight Tests in this calendar year and lifted the Six Nations trophy in October.

Their only defeat came in Paris in February when France, under new coach Fabien Galthie, triumphed 24-17.

However, none of that French starting XV can play in Sunday's game because of an agreement with French clubs.

The restriction, combined with England's impressive sweep of their Pool A fixtures against Georgia, Ireland and Wales, makes Eddie Jones' side heavy favourites for a fixture that marks the return of fans to Twickenham for the first time in almost nine months.

Two thousand spectators, including 400 NHS workers who have received free tickets, will be in attendance.

Another final, a different result?

England lose Rugby World Cup final
England lost the World Cup final to South Africa after beating holders New Zealand in the semi-final

England coach Eddie Jones has set his team up to exorcise some of the memories of their last final - a 32-12 defeat by South Africa at last year's Rugby World Cup.

"In retrospect we probably didn't attack the week like we normally do," said Jones of his side's defeat by the Springboks. "It's not necessarily a conscious decision.

"We've made a big effort this week to attack the week, not to sit back, and to see where we can improve our game."

In contrast to a much-changed French side, Jones has made just two alterations to the team that beat Wales in Llanelli last time out, with Anthony Watson replacing Bath team-mate Jonathan Joseph on the wing and Leicester prop Ellis Genge starting in place of the injured Mako Vunipola.

Victory would make England the first, and potentially last, winners of the Autumn Nations Cup - a tournament that was created to fill the gap in the calendar left by the southern hemisphere nations being unable to make their usual tours north during the coronavirus pandemic.

Under-strength, but not underestimated

Matthieu Jalibert
France fly-half Matthieu Jalibert will make only his fourth Test start

France will be without about 25 key players, such as Antoine Dupont, Virimi Vakatawa and Gregory Alldritt, because of an agreement struck with France's top clubs to only select any player for three matches during this extended autumn Test window.

The visitors will instead turn to the fringe members of his squad and several of an outstanding generation of young players. France have won the last two under-20 World Championships.

Team manager Raphael Ibanez has backed his team to make up a gulf of experience on Sunday, with France's starting XV containing only 68 caps to England's 783.

"We won our matches to reach the final," he said. "This is the result of the state of mind of the players and all the efforts so far.

"They are a talented team that we believe in and who will perhaps move mountains this Sunday. We are not going to let it go."

England coach Eddie Jones has insisted England will not underestimate France saying they "have got a history of doing well when they've got a young side".

The return of spectators

Twickenham
Four hundred of the tickets for Sunday's match have been given to NHS staff

The last time fans were able to watch England, more than 80,000 spectators cheered them to a 33-30 win over Wales, in a match featuring seven tries.

Such numbers - both in scoreline and attendance - have felt a long way away this autumn in a tournament that has been dominated by defences.

Four hundred of the 2,000 tickets have been given to NHS workers, with 50 from the West Middlesex University Hospital and the Hounslow and Richmond Community Healthcare NHS Trust seated in the Royal Box.

The rest of the fans will be seated and socially distanced in the lower tiers of the East and South stands, rather than spread out across the whole of the stadium. The players' families will be among those in attendance.

"It is exciting for society that we're getting back to something that is a bit more like we would like life to be," Jones said.

"To have 2,000 fans in, the players will appreciate it. They will hear the noise and some of their families will be there so it brings it a bit more back to normal."

Match stats

  • England lead the head-to-head with 58 wins to France's 41. There have been seven draws
  • England are on a seven-game winning run dating back to the loss to France in the opening round of the 2020 Six Nations
  • England have won their last seven games against France at Twickenham, their last defeat coming in 2007
  • The last game between the sides at Twickenham saw England win 44-8 in 2019
  • Jonny May has scored seven tries in seven games against France, with six coming in his last three games against Les Bleus

Line-ups

England: Daly; Watson, Slade, Farrell (capt), May; Ford, Youngs; Genge, George, Sinckler, Itoje, Launchbury, Curry, Underhill, B Vunipola.

Replacements: Cowan-Dickie, Marler, Stuart, Hill, Earl, Robson, Malins, Marchant.

France: Dulin; Raka, Moefana, Danty, Villiere; Jalibert, Couilloud; Kolingar, Bourgarit, Aldegheri, Geraci, Pesenti, Woki, Jelonch, Tofofua.

Replacements: Mauvaka, Neti, Atonio, Ducat, Macalou, Bezy, Carbonel, Barassi.

Referee: Andrew Brace (Ire)

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