Former England international Tom May picks out three players to keep an eye on during Sunday's clash at the Twickenham Stadium.
England have got to try and back up last week which is going to be difficult. From a defensive perspective they have set a standard now as that performance against Ireland was outstanding. Their line speed was brilliant as were their dominant tackles. When you set benchmarks you have to try and repeat them and that is what the coaches will be after.
They are coming up against a French side who when they function will be pretty difficult stop but you just don’t know how much mental damage last weekend’s defeat to Wales will have done to them. Has it ruined their confidence or has it stoked their fire to make a statement at Twickenham this weekend?
Jonny May, wing (Leicester Tigers, 41 caps)
He was brilliant last week, taking high balls, running at pace, kicking intelligently, defending well he’s just doing everything really well at the moment and has been for quite a while.
To see him go up against Damien Penaud and Gael Fickou, yes they are good players, but they are centres so I think Jonny May could really expose those two for pace. I spoke to him recently about his form and asked him what he has done over the past two years to make him one of the most feared wingers in world rugby and he said it’s been part of an ongoing process to work hard on all areas of his game but to concentrate on his main strengths and that is his pace.
He has crazy pace and if England can get him into space then he terrorises teams and it’s good to watch. He’s like a computer game, if you wanted to pick someone with serious pace you’d pick Jonny May a bit like Simon Geoghegan in Lomu rugby.
Courtney Lawes, lock (Northampton Saints, 69 caps)
He is coming in for Maro Itoje so immediately people are looking for someone to lead from the front and really take the game to the French. They have a big pack and yes Paul Willemse is not starting but there are still big lumps in there and someone like Courtney really has to set the tone I think and lead with enthusiasm and intent.
Look back to 2015 where he absolutely smashed Jules Plisson with a fully legal tackle and it is hits like that at the weekend which are going to be a requirement. If you let that French side get on the front foot then they are a dangerous outfit, and okay, yes they lost against Wales but that was down to huge implosion in the final stages of the game. They will be pretty angry and someone like Courtney is pretty adept at being able to handle that.
Manu Tuilagi, inside centre (Leicester Tigers, 28 caps)
He was ridiculous at the weekend, he is back to his best and looked desperate to play for England. I couldn’t believe it when I heard that it was six years since he started in the Six Nations. He adds a huge amount to this England team. All of Ireland’s big carriers got smashed by Manu both in attack and defence. I thought the contest between him and Bundee Aki was brilliant. Ake is someone who has been dominating people for quite a long time and I think Manu won that pretty convincingly.
I think also he looks as if he has tried to add to his game. Clearly he is not as comfortable being a ball player but the ball shifted through his hands a lot more than I’ve seen before which perhaps when we’ve seen him play 13 for England the ball hasn’t got out to those wider channels as often or so quickly.
The balance between him and Henry Slade in the midfield gives England real options. You have Owen Farrell’s distribution, Manu’s ability to physically threaten defences and draw in defenders and sit them on their heels, which means that with Slade’s footwork and ability to move off the pass and get into those outside channels allows England’s midfield to rip open set defences.