MARCOUSSIS, February 22- Six Nations Grand Slam holders France may be going into Saturday's clash at Twickenham against England as underdogs but veteran French lock Lionel Nallet believes their bitter rivals are not unbeatable.
The 34-year-old former French captain, who is set to win his 60th cap since making his debut back in 2000, told AFP the French should exploit England’s ill-discipline which will cost them dearer on Saturday than it did against the hapless Italians last time out when despite giving away 18 penalties they won 59-13.
"If we can stop them, then we can give them pause for thought," said Nallet, who gave sterling service to first Bourgoin and then Castres before moving to Racing in 2009.
"They commit an enormous amount of mistakes, notably in defence and also when they fail to get over the advantage line (in the rucks), they come at you in pairs and the second one smothers the ball.
"They have a habit of not releasing it and getting penalised under the new regulations."
Nallet, who was a pivotal member of last year’s Grand Slam winning side their first since 2004, accepted like coach Marc Lievremont that England were vastly improved under manager Martin Johnson.
"They have progressed, and have succeeded in playing with a certain dynamism on the pitch," said Nallet, who was part of the France squad that reached the 2007 World Cup semi-finals.
"When you have a team that advances two sometimes three metres each time of impact and then behind them they have both speed and strong legs, that really hurts you.
"One of the keys of the match is going to be to bring them down to the ground very quickly so they cannot advance and cross the advantage line.
"They have the tendency not to go in for the rucks much, as they come either as one, or two to clear the ball out because they are holding the upper hand."
Nallet, who has six test tries to his credit, recollects all too sadly his last trip to Twickenham two years ago when as captain they received a thorough going over and trailed 29-0 at half-time before losing 34-10.
"I remember that we were overwhelmed," said Nallet, who was eventually replaced in late 2009 as captain by Toulouse flanker Thierry Dusautoir.
"It is the type of match where you are taken unawares and you just don’t succeed in reacting positively.
"We were outmatched in both combativity and speed.
"It was a little like against Australia (a 59-16 humbling at Stade de France last November) when you are dominated, that you are a little stunned and there is no collective reaction."
Nallet, who had a tough time in the opening 34-21 win over Scotland where he and the other French jumpers lost several of their lineouts, accepted that despite denials by several of his team-mates the squad was not yet over the Australian thrashing.
"The English are on the up and we, well we are going there as the underdogs.
"We still have in our heads memories of the summer tour (they lost heavily to Argentina and South Africa) and the Australia experience.
"It is vital we take on the English without an inferiority complex while still retaining the lessons of these dispiriting losses.
"Just because we have won two Six Nations matches (they beat Ireland 25-22 a week after the Scottish win) doesn’t mean that everything is going smoothly and that those type of defeats can’t happen again."
The amiable and humble lock – who at his unshaven shaggiest presents quite an intimidating duo alongside his clubmate Sebastian Chabal – played along with Lievremont’s tongue in cheek appraisal of the French people’s historic dislike of the English.
"No I don’t especially like them," he said smiling.
"There is a history between the two countries, its like a cat and a dog.
"At the end of the day, its not meant badly, for we don’t like each other without really knowing why.
"These days, it is a tradition and each of us from both sides plays it up a little."