England take on France in Paris today and have selected a young, quick and dynamic team.
Writing for @BreakfastSports
The big news is that Jack Nowell will be making his debut alongside centre Luther Burrell in the Stade de France battle, a tough challenge for both players. The selection of Nowell will add pace on the wing with a back-line already bursting with speed if a little inexperienced. Outside of Care, Farrell and Brown, England’s backs only have nine test match caps.
England clearly show their attacking intent, with starts for Harlequins Danny Care at scrum-half and Mike Brown at full-back. Both players will run the ball at any chance and give England the opportunity to terrorise the French backs with their quick off-loading style of play, one that Captain Robshaw likes to play. Care’s selection over Youngs will see England run the ball with the view to retaining possession, rather than kicking for territory. This has been something I have wanted to see England do for a long time and applaud the intention to play positive rugby, something that will help in the forth coming Rugby World Cup.
The forwards should not be missed out of the selection analysis with Marler, Lawes, Robshaw and Vunipola all very attacking forwards who will carry the ball through the middle of the pitch. This will create space for the backs as France will need to commit men to the ruck, in order to stop the dynamic forwards.
Head coach Stuart Lancaster bold selection is a risk, despite his claims this week otherwise. A risk that could pay huge dividends to the head-coach if England manage to get the win. Stuart Lancaster has stated he is going with his gut instinct, something that as a head-coach is admirable, over taking the safe option. A tough start for England, we all know that a win today is essential in order to carry momentum to the rest of the tournament.
France struggled in last years Six Nations but can never be underestimated, as their streaky form can evolve into a rugby powerhouse, if they can get of to a good start. A win against England will be seen as a catalyst for confidence in the French squad, a potential danger for opponents to come.
England have won six of their last seven against France and will need to carry that form into today’s game if they are to win. If they can get a fluid game rolling and dictate the play, England have a very good chance of coming back from Paris with a win.
France: 15 Dulin 14 Huget, 13 Bastareaud, 12 Fofana, 11 Medard 10 Plisson, 9 Doussain; 1 Domingo, 2 Kayser, 3 Mas, 4 Flanquart, 5 Pape (capt), 6 Nyanga, 7 Le Roux, 8 Picamoles.
Replacements: 16 Szarzewski, 17 Forestier, 18 Slimani, 19 Maestri, 20 Burban, 21 Chouly, 22 Machenaud, 23 Fickou.
England: 15 Brown, 14 Nowell, 13 Burrell, 12 Twelvetrees, 11 May, 10 Farrell, 9 Care; 1 Marler, 2 Hartley, 3 Cole, 4 Launchbury, 5 Lawes, 6 Wood, 7 Robshaw (capt), 8 Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Youngs, 17 Vunipola, 18 Thomas, 19 Attwood, 20 Morgan, 21 Dickson, 22 Barritt, 23 Goode.
Tonight’s game at the Garden between the Flyers and the Rangers is a story of two teams that have rebounded from adversity to sit a point apart from a playoff place. It will be the first time the Flyers have been to the Garden this season.
Both teams have seven wins in there last ten (Philadelphia 7-3-0; New York 7-2-1) and will be looking to push on.
The Flyers have won 5 out of their past 6 road games but tend to struggle at the Garden. Nevertheless, the Flyers won the first meeting this season in a heated affair, beating the Rangers 2-1 Philly behind a stellar 30-save performance from Steve Mason.
With his two assists on Saturday, Claude Giroux now has 21 points in his past 15 games. He will need to fire up the Flyers for arguably their most important game of the season so far.
The Rangers powerplay is red hot at 6th in the NHL after a slow start. The Flyers on the other hand have killed off 22 consecutive penalties over the last seven games.
In a high stakes game The Flyers could move back into second place with a win of any kind against New York if the Capitals loss against Buffalo or if the Flyers take the game to OT
The Rangers could to rise from fourth to second and back into a playoff space.
Simmonds has recorded at least one point in 10 of his last 12 games and looked back to his best on the PP. He certainly was not happy with the Flyers defensive display against Tampa last night.
“I think we played like garbage defensively,” Simmonds said. “I thought we had all the chances in the world offensively, we were clicking. We just have to get that defensive game back tight. We have to get it tight going again.”
I am betting on a low scoring tight checking game tonight which could swing the momentum of the Metropolitan division. OT anyone?
Have a look at the on fire birthday boy in action who has now scored 21 goals this season.
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The Philadelphia Flyers will need to use their excellent home form as a catalyst to being more consistent on the road.
Nine straight home wins in a row has helped the Flyers into the third playoff spot in the Metropolitan Division. In order to stay there they will have to be more consistent on the road, starting with Edmonton tonight.
Craig Berube understands the importance of the Flyers finding some consistency on the road. From NHL.COM;
“On the road we tend to not fall asleep but not push the issue enough at certain times,”
“And we end up letting our guard down a bit.”
“We need to be a .500-or-better team on the road,”
If we take a look at the six games the Flyers will play on this road trip they need to win three from six to meet Berube’s minimum expectation for the team.
Personally out of the six games Edmonton, Calgary and New Jersey seem the three to target, with Vancouver, Colorado and Phoenix also to play. I believe all six games are winnable and although it would be a big ask to win all six, the Flyers should win at least three.
No games will be easy and the Flyers need to find a way to make them hard to beat outside of the Wells Fargo. Edmonton have won their last two games against Winnipeg and Calgary, snapping a six game loosing streak.
If they can take the home form to the road then the Flyers can help establish themselves in a playoff spot.
What the fans would like to see is their team turn up for all three periods each game. A lack of concentration or effort on the road is not good enough to get you into the playoffs. Let’s hope that the Flyers have come to understand that too!