By John Davidson, (RLP RLWC Correspondent) Date: 15/11/13
A sore and sorry France face a baptism of fire in English rugby league’s spiritual home, Wigan, on Saturday night.
The French were battered, bloodied and bruised in a brutal game against Les Tricolores Samoans on Monday night. The Pacific Islanders threw everything at them, often going outside of the rules of the sport, and managed to get the key victory. This meant they escaped England, with France traveling to Lancashire to face the Poms instead.
England seemed to have turned a corner. They endured a tough first half against Fiji but showed composure and resilience to weather the storm and fire in the second half. Eventually they ran out 32-12 winners and they head to Wigan with their sails up.
The DW Stadium is a real rugby league cauldron, home to Super League’s flagbearing club and to a knowledgeable and vocal crowd. It’s not the biggest stadium but it will be standing room only for this match. The quarter-final is the only game Wigan is hosting and with all six of the Warriors’ England players in the squad to face France, expect a loud and proud crowd backing the home team.
The Wigan Observer and Evening Post papers have been spruiking the tournament and the DW Stadium’s record attendance, set at 25,133 when Wigan Athletic played Manchester United, could be broken.
There’s no denying France are up against it. While they have been lively, they have struggled to score points. They only managed two tries against the Kumuls and one against Samoa. The French have lacked spark and a lot will fall on to the shoulders of Morgan Escare.
The phenomenally talented fullback or halfback, Escare will need to get his hands on the ball as much as possible to trouble the English defence.
England has no such worries. They have managed to score 104 points in their three group games and have strength in depth. Their off-field problems seem to be behind them and they showed great attacking endeavour against Fiji.
A semi-final meeting with New Zealand awaits. England has too much grunt up front and speed out wide to be beaten by France. If the Poms hit the straps, the French could cop a pasting. England to win by about 30 points, with the hosts and the holders to battle it out at Wembley next weekend.
England team to take on France
George Burgess (South Sydney Rabbitohs, Dewsbury Moor)
Sam Burgess (South Sydney Rabbitohs, Dewsbury Moor)
Rob Burrow (Leeds Rhinos, Featherstone Lions)
Josh Charnley (Wigan Warriors, Wigan St Patricks)
Rangi Chase (Castleford Tigers, Dannevirke Tigers)
Leroy Cudjoe (Huddersfield Giants, Newsome Panthers)
Liam Farrell (Wigan Warriors, Wigan St Patricks)
Brett Ferres (Huddersfield Giants, Smawthorne Panthers)
James Graham (Canterbury Bulldog, Blackbrook)
Ryan Hall (Leeds Rhinos, Oulton Raiders)
Chris Hill (Warrington Wolves, New Spring Lions)
Michael McIlorum (Wigan Warriors, Queens)
Lee Mossop (Wigan Warriors, Hensingham)
Sean O’Loughlin (Wigan Warriors, Wigan St Patricks)
James Roby (St Helens, Blackbrook)
Kevin Sinfield (captain) (Leeds Rhinos, Waterhead)
Sam Tomkins (Wigan Warriors, Wigan St Patricks)
Kallum Watkins (Leeds Rhinos, Latchford Albion)
Ben Westwood (Warrington Wolves, Normanton Knights)
France team to take on England