England Should Fear Underdog France

I was lucky enough to be on the pitch at the final whistle when England beat France the last time the two teams met in the World Cup in 2007.

That semi-final in Paris remains my fondest moment in an England shirt.

The French were huge favourites. They were playing in their capital city, the whole country was behind them and they had played some lovely rugby to get there.

We, on the other hand, had taken a while to get into our stride and had stumbled through the opening stages.

But on that night in the northern suburbs of Paris, we famously fought back from a half-time deficit to earn a place in the final.

Don’t ask me how that comeback was masterminded though because, while the coaches were giving their team talk during the break, I was still out on the pitch!

I came off the bench near the end of the first half when Josh Lewsey damaged a hamstring and was so nervous when the half-time whistle went that I asked fellow substitute Tom Rees to stay out with me on the pitch during the interval to practice some tackling and passing.

I was good to go when the second half started and was part of a side that fought back to win 14-9 shock all of France and most of the World too.

A lot of my previous outings during that tournament were 10 minutes here and 20 minutes there. But to be part of a side that achieved what we did that night in the Stade de France was tremendous.

Because of the challenge of that night and the fact that few people expected us to win, it is still the best I have felt coming off a rugby pitch.

The two sides will go head-to-head again on Saturday for a place in the semi-finals in New Zealand.

The French have been truly dreadful and seemingly in disarray.

But they love being the underdog. When there is no expectation on them, they are at their most dangerous.

England should be nervous about playing them because nobody expects them to win this time. Nobody expected them to beat New Zealand back in 2007 either - and look what they did then.

It should make for some fascinating viewing.


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