Sixteen-year Twickenham drought 'motivates' France lock Willemse

France lock Paul Willemse said on Sunday the team's poor recent record at Twickenham is the driving force heading to England in the Six Nations in two weeks' time.

Les Bleus last won in the English capital in 2007.

Since Fabien Galthie took over as head coach after the 2019 Rugby World Cup, France have beaten every opponent they have faced at least once and took the national record to 14 straight victories before February 11's loss at Ireland.

"We'll see what makes Twickenham such a difficult place to go," Willemse told AFP after beating Scotland 32-21.

"With this team, we haven't done it so far but it motivates us. We've broken almost all of the records with this team, it's one of the few that's left.

"It's a good opportunity for us to use it as extra motivation to go and break that record because it's there for us to do,” he added.

Sunday's bonus point win over Scotland came after this year's World Cup hosts led 19-7 at the break. It also keeps their slender hopes of retaining the Six Nations title alive.

France managed to keep the in-form visitors at bay despite just a four-point lead with 11 minutes to play at the Stade de France in a game where both sides were shown red cards.

"We kind of expected them to come back into it," 30-year-old Willemse said.

"We knew they had a good start to the tournament and it wasn't going to be easy against them. It never is," he added.

- 'Disrupter' Itoje -

Willemse's Montpellier and Test team-mate Mohamed Haouas was sent off for a headbutt after lock Grant Gilchrist was given his marching orders for a dangerous tackle.

Tight-head prop Haouas was making his first France start since November 2021. He was also shown a red card against Scotland in 2020.

The front-rower is likely to miss the trip to Twickenham with a suspension.

"I know he's sad because it was his chance to be back in the team, to show what he can do," said Pretoria-born Willemse.

"He had trained well for weeks, he was on-form. No-one is annoyed with him, it's just a shame."

Next month, Willemse is likely to come up against mobile England lock Maro Itoje.

The 28-year-old, who can also play among the loose forward trio, is third in standings for tackles made and lineouts won so far this campaign.

"The first thing I always say about him is that he's not a lock, he's a 'loosie' in my head," Willemse said.

"He's a player that can disrupt the match. I've also learned a few things watching him play to add to my game. He's capable of disturbing your momentum in the match, just doing things to throw you a bit on the back foot.

"You have to respect his quality of disrupting a match," he added.