CHRIS ASHTON has warned England to be ready to face an ‘angry France’ on Sunday.
Les Bleus are reeling in the wake of a shocking collapse to Wales in Paris as a 16-0 half-time lead crumbled into a 24-19 defeat in the Six Nations opener.
Now they must rebuild their shattered confidence at Twickenham with Ashton, formerly of Toulon, warning France may be paying the price for the lack of intensity in their domestic league.
England, in contrast, are jubilant after crushing pre-tournament favourites Ireland in Dublin, routing the champions 32-20.
However, Sale wing Ashton fears they must subdue a furious reaction from opponents seeking redemption, saying: ‘We’ve got a big Test against France — an angry France. 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 too. They have got to win and make up for last week.
‘It’s really unusual for them to lose like that at home, so I’m sure there’ll 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.’
Ashton enjoyed a successful year at Toulon and set a new Top 14 tryscoring record during his time on the Cote D’Azur, where he gained an insight into why the French national team is suffering.
‘The speed of their domestic game is definitely affecting the step up to international level,’ said Ashton, who came on as a replacement for England against Ireland.
‘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.
‘I’d definitely say the Premiership is a lot more intense.’