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France gunning for Grand Slam
Les bleus scrum-half Dimitri Yachvili returns for the Six Nations clash with England.
Last Modified: 10 Mar 2007 07:05 GMT

France scrum-half Dimitri Yachvili, left, has been the destroyer of England in past clashes [GALLO/GETTY]

France will continue their quest for a 2007 Six Nations Grand Slam at Twickenham on Sunday to add to their tournament whitewashes in 2002 and 2004, but an under-strength England will be looking to spoil their party.
France coach Bernard Laporte has a full squad to choose from and will bring in Biarritz scrum-half Dimitri Yachvili, who has been England's nemesis in the Six Nations on more than one occasion in the past few years.

The change is not due to injury to incumbent scrum-half Jean-Baptiste Elissalde, but rather Laporte's philosophy of giving every player a chance in what is effectively a dress rehearsal for the World Cup in France later this year.

Yachvili refuses to accept that he is a lucky charm against the English.

"I don't consider myself to be an England specialist," says Yachvili, who will win his 32nd cap on Sunday.

"It is England after all who have been dominant over us in the past few years," added the 26-year-old, perhaps forgetting that France have defeated England on the past three occasions they have met in the Six Nations tournament.

France have looked impressive in winning three from three in the Six Nations so far, including crushing Irelands hopes of a Grand Slam by beating them 20-17 with a last minute try at Croke Park in February.

In contrast, England have had a forgettable tournament thus far, coming off a scratchy 20-7 win over Italy at Twickenham before being smashed by a record 43-13 at the hands of Ireland at Croke Park.

England coach Brian Ashton has seen his plans decimated by injury and loss of form, and has made sweeping changes from the Irish match – most notably World Cup winning fly-half Jonny Wilkinson and captain Phil Vickery both out through injury.

Such is the disarray in the England set-up that Ashton has made 35-year-old centre Mike Catt captain and selected 21-year-old Toby Flood at fly-half.

"For such a young player, the arc of his game is very impressive," said the South African-born Catt of Flood's inexperience.

Wanting to do it

Ashton, who rates France as the best team in the northern hemisphere - edging Ireland because he believes that all their players can handle the ball with equal finesse, is in no doubt as to what it will take to beat them on Sunday.

"First of all we have to get the foundations right," said Ashton.

"If we don't get the set piece or the tackling right then it doesn't matter who you are playing.

"It can be done but it comes from a mindset of wanting to do it."

In other Six Nations matches this weekend, Ireland hope to keep their slim hopes of winning the tournament alive when they take on Scotland at Murrayfield, while Wales will be out to record their first win of the competition when they play surprise packets Italy at the Stadio Flaminio in Rome on Saturday.

Source:
Agencies
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