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RugbyU: Not even a win will silence critics - Guirado

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Paris (AFP)

France captain Guilhem Guirado admits that not even a Six Nations victory over England on Saturday will silence critics of the team.

France were unlucky to lose their tournament opener to Ireland, now chasing a Grand Slam, following a last-ditch drop-goal from Jonathan Sexton.

Then came a 32-26 loss to Scotland in a match where France were on top until late on before last week's 34-17 success against Italy -- Les Bleus' first victory in nine Tests and 11, long, months.

The trip to Scotland was soured, however, when eight players were sanctioned after a controversial late-night, alcohol-fuelled drinking session following the defeat. Saddled with the string of losses, it is something that has not sat well with the French public.

Unusually for a Six Nations match against England, tickets were still on sale a day before the Stade de France game.

"No. They're there and it's like that," Guirado simply said when asked whether he thought a win over a team ranked second in World Rugby standings would at least deflect some of the criticism aimed at Les Bleus.

"It'll be a way to respond to all our expectations and what we've done in this tournament.

"This match can allow us to swing back in the right direction, it's something we have to do. It's very important in relation to what we're going through."

Guirado added that it was "absolutely necessary to win this game".

"It is the match, the rivalry, the match I remember from when I was small," said the Toulon hooker who will be up against Saracens' Jamie George in the absence of injured erstwhile England skipper Dylan Hartley.

"These are our best friends or enemies, I let you choose.

"Some people like to say that we are very far away from England, but I want to tell them that we are also very close."

Forwards coach Julien Bonnaire, the ex-Clermont and France flanker, said: "It's a test for everyone, we'll see where we are up against a team like that.

The English, he predicted, "will be tightly wound up" after their 25-13 defeat by Scotland last week that ended their Grand Slam hopes. It was just a second loss in 26 games since coach Eddie Jones took over in the wake of the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

"When you lose like that, when you have not lost in a year ... They must have had a great week with the coach!"

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