France were unceremoniously demolished at Twickenham by an England side that appeared to have no weaknesses. However, the truth is France were sometimes just a few passes from finding space. Let’s look at the England v France tactics and find out where France went wrong.

England v France Tactics | Where France failed to find space

Check out England’s backfield setup here. They effectively have 4 players back ready for the kick (red circles).

England have a stacked backfield
England have a stacked backfield

These players being used here means they can’t be used somewhere else. And for England, this leaves space out wide. Now let’s see if France can find that space.

Here France make a good break and end up in an advantageous position. Fickou (yellow circle) is on the wing screaming for the ball in space. England’s weakness out wide is now plain to see.

France are very close to finding space
France are very close to finding space

France need quick-ball at the ruck, but they fail to realise the urgency and clear out the English players slowing things down. England manages to set up a defensive line, but France still have an overlap.

France have an overlap
France have an overlap

Notice Ashton in the red circle. He makes a good decision, and rushes up to make Lopez feel like a wide pass isn’t on. The whole move comes to nothing for France, as they have failed to expose the wide channels.

France fail to expose England out wide
France fail to expose England out wide

However there was one instance where France found the space, and it was glorious. This can teach us a lot about how to score against England.

England v France Tactics | How to score against England

To expose England, skip-passes are a necessary skill to master. Here France have an overlap. Watch the skip pass beat the defender.

France finally use a skip pass and get the ball wide
France finally use a skip pass and get the ball wide

England are usually taking a gamble in defence, daring the opposition to try and get the ball wide. This time France call the bluff. With some admittedly poor tackling from England, Penaud is able to slide over for the try.

France call England's bluff
France call England’s bluff

England do still have numbers in the backfield, but they have now given the dangerous French outside backs too much space. At this level, many teams will be able to score once they are past the first line of defence. In the above clip, France looks like a side that can go toe to toe with anyone. But if you would like to know the major tactical reasons they are struggling this season, check out the article below.

France v Wales | How France Blew A 16 Point Lead

The skip-pass into wide channels does work, but France didn’t use it enough in this game. And there may be a good reason why.

England v France Tactics | How France fell victim to basic errors

France needed to play a squeaky clean game to systematically get the ball into wide areas and expose England. However, because they were stalled and disrupted every step of the way, they ended up playing into England’s hands with a conservative, ugly play style. Like an injured animal, England move swiftly to protect their weaknesses.

Let’s see what happens below when France try to take a risk and throw the ball wide. Watch Slade (red circle).

France play into England's hands
France play into England’s hands

We mentioned earlier that England dares the opposition to go wide. This time, the gamble doesn’t pay off. Slade is alert to the danger of an overlap, and screams up to grab an intercept. England end up scoring off this via a penalty try, and it’s moments like this that make sides think twice about trying to go wide and expose England.

This next mistake isn’t related to France trying to get the ball wide, but still cost them a chance to attack England’s red zone. Watch the below scrum and let us know if you think this looks like a fully committed French pack.

France blow an attacking chance
France blow an attacking chance

If you would like to know how England ran up 44 points on attack in this game, you can read about their multi-phase moves below.

England v France | England’s Multi-Phase Moves Revealed

The 1014 Rugby reviewed all of the England v France Tactics in significant detail over on their YouTube channel. See the following video for more information.

France were certainly handed opportunities, but only rarely made smart enough decisions to make them count on the scoreboard. Can France win a game in this 6 Nations? Let us know your thoughts.


  1. Great insight into what was going on in terms of England’s defense. You can see lots of similarities here from When England went on tour to SA and were unsuccessful in the 1st two tests. They simple got caught out gambling to often out wide and were punished by the speed and passing skills of the SA backs. I thought they looked extremely vulnerable at times during these games. But great to see the defensive tactic develop in time for the third test. Where the improvement was dramatic. Many people put the result in the third test down to complacency from the South Africans, due to it being a dead rubber, hard believe when they would have loved to have kept England quiet, and 3-0.


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