Chris Ashton has warned England to be ready to face an “angry France” when they continue their Guinness Six Nations title assault on Sunday.
Les Bleus are reeling in the wake of their collapse to Wales in Paris as a 16-0 half-time lead crumbled into a 24-19 defeat and now they must rebuild their shattered confidence at Twickenham.
England are jubilant after crushing pre-tournament favourites Ireland in Dublin on Saturday, routing the champions 32-20, but Ashton fears they must subdue a furious reaction from opponents seeking redemption.
“We’ve got a big Test against France – an angry France,” said Sale wing Ashton, who spent last season at Toulon.
“Obviously they’ll be up for it a little bit more now than they would have been had they won.
“We’ll be at home, which is in our favour, but it will be an angry French team, desperate to make up for the last 20 minutes of that game against Wales.
“A lot of their game is based on emotion, but they’ve got a lot of good players in there too. They’ve got to get a win and make up for last week.
“It’s really unusual for them to lose like that at home, so I’m sure there will be repercussions from that which will go beyond emotion!
“If we know anything about the French, it’s that they love a reaction. Their backs are against the wall and we expect nothing less.
“They’ll definitely be putting everything into winning next week – they have to really, in the situation they are in and after losing at home.”
“The speed of their domestic game is definitely affecting the step up to international level,” Ashton said.
“The Top 14 is a slow stop-start game. When you’re in an international game it’s the highest intensity it could possibly be, whereas their league isn’t at that level.
“I’m speaking from experience. It’s not anywhere near. Maybe that step up shocks them in that first couple of games, but they will get up to speed very quickly.
“The Toulon guys have had a tough season, so mentally they’re probably not in a good place rugby-wise, compared to where they’d want to be, going into this tournament.
“That will probably have an effect when you go into international rugby. It helps you mentally if your season is going well with your club. Some of that might have had an effect on how they played last week.”
England lit the fuse for World Cup year by blasting a heralded Ireland team into submission at the Aviva Stadium – in the process rediscovering the steel that Ashton insists had been lost.
“It’s probably something we lacked in last year’s Six Nations. We lost a bit of that edge.
“We knew we had to be as physical as we ever have been to have an impact here and we were definitely. You could see that.
“We didn’t have as much ball as we would have liked but in defence we knocked them back.”