DONETSK, Ukraine - France is bracing for a rough ride against England in their European Championship opener on Monday, despite Les Bleus' run of victories against an old rival that is struggling to cope with a string of absentees.

Whatever team England fields, France coach Laurent Blanc fully expects a hard time in the Group D game in Donetsk.

England are depleted and missing key striker Wayne Rooney, but the team still has one major weapon: the wariness it can generate in the anxious minds of the French.

Even though the momentum is with France on the back of a 21-match unbeaten run, Blanc says ''it's never easy against the English'' and maintains that ''when the French face the English, that always raises the stakes.''