France have not lost momentum ahead of England clash: Ollivon

Julien Pretot
·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: French rugby union player Charles Ollivon

By Julien Pretot

PARIS (Reuters) - France captain Charles Ollivon is confident Les Bleus have not lost their momentum despite being hit by a COVID-19 outbreak as they prepare for a pivotal Six Nations clash against England at Twickenham on Saturday.

Twelve players and five staff members, including head coach Fabien Galthie, tested positive for the novel coronavirus after France's second win in as many games when they beat Ireland, prompting organisers to postpone their match against Scotland.

It means France have not played in the championship since Feb. 14, while England last played on Feb. 27 when they lost 40-24 to Wales - their second defeat in three outings.

"Honestly, nothing has changed. The atmosphere, the confidence, everything is intact," Ollivon told reporters on Friday.

"The momentum is still there and we cannot wait for tomorrow, to play this game and go on with our project. Things are very clear in our heads."

France, who will host the next World Cup in 2023, have not won the Six Nations since 2010, the year they completed their last Grand Slam, and they have not beaten England at Twickenham in the championship since 2005.

"We know the challenge we're facing, England have won the last two competitions they were in," said Ollivon.

England won the 2020 Six Nations, ahead of France on points difference despite losing to Les Bleus in Paris, and the Autumn Nations Cup by beating a largely reserve France side in the final.

"We know that whatever happens England will be ready, we know the task at hand," said Ollivon.

France are second in the standings with nine points from two games, five behind Wales who have played three, with England in fourth place on six points from three matches.

Les Bleus will rely on the same halfback pair of Antoine Dupont and Matthieu Jalibert that started against Italy and Ireland, and welcome back centre Virimi Vakatawa who missed the two opening games with a knee injury.

(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ken Ferris)