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Rugby | Six Nations

Graham Rowntree © Action Images

Rowntree ready for ferocious French



England forwards coach Graham Rowntree has told his pack to expect a fierce French onslaught when they meet in the Six Nations at Twickenham on Saturday.

England go into the match as the only team capable of winning the Grand Slam this season whereas France, the pre-tournament favourites, are on a mission to recover from back-to-back defeats – the first time they have lost their opening two games of a Championship season since 1982.

Rowntree expects under pressure France coach Philippe Saint-Andre to restore powerful front-row forward Thomas Domingo to his starting line-up.

"Philippe Saint-Andre is already saying this is their Grand Slam," Rowntree said Tuesday.

"It will change the whole complexion of their Championship if they win at the weekend and the way they will challenge us is through their forward pack.

"There is never a weak French scrum. We are preparing for Domingo. I think he will start.

"We have been watching him play for Clermont. He has been around that set-up for a few years now. He is an incredible scrummager, a compact little unit but technically very good.

"As an outfit, regardless of results, that area of the game is something we always respect with France."

England are likely to field an unchanged side but they do have competition for places across the board, including at loosehead prop where Mako Vunipola, who starred for Saracens in their Premiership win over Exeter last weekend, is challenging incumbent Joe Marler of Harlequins.

Vunipola has so far been used by England as a replacement and Rowntree said: "He played well (against Exeter) didn't he? He has been one of the real breakthrough players of the season so far.

"I am delighted with his progress. He demonstrates the strength we have got in many positions.

"I remember myself as a prop coming on and trying to get up to the pace of the game, trying to make an impact on the game and he does it better than I ever did," former England prop Rowntree added.

"Who we start, it's no bad thing for a person like him to sit on the bench. What I mean by that is he could start, I'm quite comfortable with him starting. It is horses for courses."

England are due to name their 23-man squad later Tuesday with head coach Stuart Lancaster announcing his starting line-up on Thursday, when Saint-Andre is also set to unveil his side.

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