England v France, February 23, 2013
Goode: Premiership pressure is paying dividends
February 19, 2013
Alex Goode looks set to keep his spot at fullback ahead of Saturday's match with France © Getty Images
England's Alex Goode claims that the team's high levels of fitness are down to the pressure and competitive nature of the Aviva Premiership.
England have two wins from two heading into Saturday's Six Nations clash against win-less France and Stuart Lancaster's team have been praised for their impressive conditioning. In contrast, Wales' Leigh Halfpenny mentioned in the wake of their win over France that they deemed Les Bleus to be struggling with the pace of the match.
And Goode insists the pressure-cooker environment of the Premiership, which is often compared unfavourably to the RaboDirect PRO12 or Top 14, has left them well prepared for the Six Nations.
"I look at our conditioning in a different way - I see it as a strength of the Premiership," Goode said. "We argue whether relegation should be there or not, or if the games are boring, but the great thing is that we have a Premiership that's tight.
"How often are games decided in the last 10-15 minutes? Top teams are generally the ones that come through in that last passage. Yes everyone in the England squad is in great shape, but it's also down to the way we're used to playing under pressure.
"Every game matters and there can be no complacency if you're playing a team at the bottom of the league. You know it will be tough and generally won in the last 15 minutes. That's where we get our composure from."
And former England lock Simon Shaw, who now plays in the Top 14 for Toulon, believes that Lancaster's team can take full advantage of any shortcomings in France's conditioning.
"Fitness is an area England can exploit," Shaw told the Times. "But France have an ability to do remarkable things. The passion when things are going their way almost supersedes any need for fitness. You only have to look at the World Cup final. They were immense against arguably the fittest side in the world [New Zealand].
"The challenge England have got is to hold France out early on. If they are ahead going into final quarter, my money would be on England."
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