sport

Catt wary of French backlash

Mike Catt has warned England that the "wounded" French will pose them a unique test at Twickenham in Saturday's Six Nations showdown.

But the England skills coach is confident his men have the proven ability to cope with whatever the unpredictable French throw at them.

Catt's confidence is born of England's contrasting victories over Scotland and Ireland, which has seen them installed as favourites for the Six Nations title.

England took their attacking game to a new level in defeating the Scots and then relied on control and high-pressure, physical defence to win 12-6 in Dublin.

Meanwhile, France were slumping to their worst start to a championship since 1982 but they have made seven changes for the trip to Twickenham and look a far stronger outfit.

"We lost against Australia and South Africa (in November) and then came back to beat the All Blacks - they are in the same position," Catt said.

"They are a wounded animal, they are a very proud nation and they enjoy playing against the English. It is a big one at Twickenham.

"As a team we have grown. We showed a lot of maturity in that Ireland win.

"They will probably throw something at us that we haven't experienced before. It is about how quickly we adapt to it and the players have done exceptionally well on the field, making those decisions and coming up with solutions.

"It is massively exciting and a massive learning step going forward."

England have made three changes to the side that won in Dublin, bringing Dylan Hartley, Manu Tuilagi and Courtney Lawes into a side that is ready to meet the French physicality head-on.

Wesley Fofana has been moved to his most dangerous position at inside centre where he will line up for the first time alongside Mathieu Bastareaud - and opposite the England midfield of Brad Barritt and Tuilagi.

It promises to be a seismic midfield showdown but the French have some artistry too, most notably the return at scrum-half of Morgan Parra.

"Fofana is a formidable force and he will make a good partnership with Bastareaud," Catt added.

"Controlling the game at half-back is something crucial at international level and Parra has proved he is an exceptionally talented player when he does those things.

"We have to make sure we control that and make sure our back three are well organised."

England have won their last three Tests, including the record triumph over New Zealand, and their last four matches in the Six Nations.

Only once before, between 2002 and 2004, have England enjoyed a longer winning streak in the championship.

"For us it is the next challenge," said captain Chris Robshaw.

"They come to Twickenham on the back of two losses. We have been in the situation where people start to write you off and they will come here and give it a real go.

"We have looked all week on how we can improve on the Ireland game and hopefully tomorrow we can take that into the game.

"We are in a good place."