Rugby Insight: Matt Dawson's Key Targets

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Former England scrum half Matt Dawson says England players should prepare themselves for the unique reception you get in Paris, and believes Eddie Jones' side must be targeting five points from their trip to France.

World Cup winner Dawson says from the moment the team enters the Stade de France they will know how much the home support will be backing the hosts.

“The environment on the day is very hostile, even in the warm-up you can feel the pressure and general negativity towards the England team even when you’re jogging around the pitch," said the 45-year-old.

“You don’t feel it when you’re wandering around Paris when you’re having a coffee because you can mingle in in quite nicely, but certainly when it comes to game time, I always felt the pressure of burden and history around the game because it’s a game.

England head into round four in second place, five points behind leaders Ireland, and Dawson believes a bonus-point win in ​Le Crunch​ has to be the aim on Saturday.

“I think England have got to go out and try and win the game with a bonus-point, first and foremost they will want to win the game.

 "Very quickly they’ve got to switch into scoring tries and getting to a point where they can go into Ireland full of confidence knowing that they only need to win the game and don’t need to chase the game to win the Championship."

Ball in hand

One of the three key stats from IBM TryTracker states that if England are able to make 516 metres with ball in hand then it gives them a 95.7% chance of victory.

Although Dawson believes it will be England's speedsters that will get this  figure, he wants to see the forwards lay the platform for a carrying game.

“Those type of yardages will tend to be lifted by the back three, those guys have got to get a good run at it.

“The front five are key ball carriers up front of course they have to make a difference, but I just want to see positive yardage from those guys, I don’t want to see loads of yardage I just want to see them breaking the gainline.

“That in turn gives the momentum for the backs to be playing on the front foot and all of a sudden our back three managed to make 20 or 30 metres and that figure becomes achievable - it will start with those few metre gains with the forwards and then the magnified distance in the backs."

Turnover tussle

Going into round four, England have the best defence in the competition having conceded 46 points in their three games.

The breakdown battle is always a key area of the game and if England secure 50% of all turnovers then they have a 85.7% chance of recording a win.

“There are occasions and styles of game where you don’t necessarily want to compete over the ball and will let the opposition have it," stated Dawson.

“A lot will depend on the conditions, the interpretation by the referee and you can’t go into the game with a pre-conceived idea of how the breakdown is going to be.

“I personally think England do need to compete more but be selective on when to go and when not. England are not a heavily competing side, that’s not how they choose to defend, but now and again they do need to do it.”

Invaluable platform

Set piece is always vital part of the game and the IBM stats say that if England secure 92% of their own lineouts on Saturday, then they are more than likely to come away with a win.

Dawson says the consistency England has shown so far at lineout time has been an impressive feature of 2018.

"It is invaluable to know that you are going to win the ball and create an opportunity for the backs to launch one of their moves to then get the team into their pattern, is, as I say, invaluable.

“I’ve liked the variations at the lineout, the peels, mauls, delivery of the ball.

“That’s something that Steve Borthwick and the forwards will no doubt be working on maintaining that statistics in the high 90s and it will be crucial as France will be looking to do something a bit quirky, they will have a trick up their sleeve."