Six Nations Double Header
England Rugby Under 20s head coach Steve Bates is backing his team to bounce back from their Six Nations defeat to Scotland when they take on France this weekend.
The U20s travel to Stade de la Méditerranée knowing that a bonus-point win on Friday night will put them back on course to retain their Six Nations trophy, if they can follow that up by defeating Ireland at the Ricoh Arena in the grand finale on Friday, March 16th (kick-off 8pm).
A defeat for England this weekend though would spell the end of their title defence – which has so far seen victories over Italy (17-27) and Wales (37-12) before the loss to Scotland, after surrendering a ten-point half-time lead (24-17).
Speaking from their training base at Loughborough University, Bates believes his players are ready to put aside the permutations attached to this weekend’s game and focus on tackling a prolific French side.
He said: “I don’t think there’s any added pressure on us at all. The French have been so prolific and dominant up until now that this is about going out and trying to win a particular game of rugby.
“It’s like a final in itself – if we don’t play to our potential then we could be in for a very long evening, but the challenge is about taking on a very good side and playing well.”
The French come into the game having scored almost 200 points in three matches and Bates has emphasised to his players how crucial a good start will be.
He added: “France have got off to a flying start in every game they’ve played, so the first 15 minutes are going to be crucial. If we can make sure we are still in the game after 60 minutes then it’ll make the last 20 minutes really interesting.
“It’s important for us to be competitive and organised defensively right from the start - which we are very capable of doing with the players that we have.
“This week’s training has been about making sure we learn some lessons from the Scotland game as we believe we’re a better team than that.
“There was a bit of frustration with the result which has added a bit more to training this week and I think the guys are in really good spirits now and are ready to have a go at France.”
Tickets for the Six Nations double-header at the Ricoh Arena on Friday, March 16th between England Women and Ireland Women (5.30pm kick-off) and England U20s versus Ireland U20s (8pm kick-off) are £10 for adults for both games, and can be purchased from www.eticketing.co.uk/ricoharena