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France heal World Cup wounds with 'hellish' Six Nations

By AFP

March 17, 2024 07:14 PM


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French players, coaches and fans suffered heavily after last year's Rugby World Cup heartbreak, but their clinical end to the Six Nations will do wonders to their grieving process.

Fabien Galthie's side, who were favourites for the World Cup, finished the Six Nations in second place thanks to confidence-boosting wins over Wales and England.

They came after a humbling in Marseille to Ireland and a worrying draw with Italy in Lille were sandwiched either side of an unconvincing victory in Scotland.

Beating England on Saturday came thanks to a late Thomas Ramos penalty in a thrilling performance reminiscent of Galthie's rip-roaring expansive opening four years at the helm.

Their positive end to the campaign came without first-choice half-backs Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack, powerhouse centre Jonathan Danty and workhorse back-rower Anthony Jelonch.

"Exactly," Galthie said after being asked about putting the ghosts of the World Cup to bed with the England success.

"It's possible that in this victory, there's a bit of learning from what happened a few months ago.

"We experienced a Six Nations from hell, literally and figuratively," the 54-year-old former France captain added.

A glaring negative to the campaign, with home games played outside of Paris with the Stade de France being renovated for this summer's Paris Olympic Games, was the French performance without the ball.

Shaun Edwards' defence conceded 122 points across five games, France's worst return since the 2001 edition, including 31 against England, in his fifth season with the side.

When they lifted a first Six Nations in more than a decade in 2022 opponents scored just 73 points.

"There are a lot of tries being scored in modern day rugby but I thought it was probably the worst defensive performance we've had since I've been here," defence coach Edwards told ITV after the England win.

"You should not have to score 30 points to win a game as exciting as it is. We have a lot of work to do."

 Dupont back-up 

Next up for Galthie's outfit is a summer tour to South America with two Tests against Argentina in July and a 'development team' game with Uruguay after a friendly with the invitational World XV side in June in Bilbao.

He will face the Pumas and Los Teros without players involved in June 28's French Top 14 final and will most probably call upon a few of the new faces he used during the Six Nations.

Seven players were handed debuts during the tournament with the likes of full-back Leo Barre as well as lock Emmanuel Meafou and prop Georges-Henri Colombe the standouts from the new generation.

Young scrum-half Nolann Le Garrec stepped up to the plate in the absence of skipper and poster boy Dupont having made his first Test start against Wales after a substitute role against Ireland, Italy and Scotland.

Dupont will also be away for the summer as he eyes a spot in France's Sevens squad at the Olympics and his Toulouse side are in good form in the Top 14 table.

Le Garrec added much-needed energy to the France attack and with Racing 92 off the pace in the league he could well keep the number nine shirt this summer.

"I'm very happy with every minute I had on the field during the five matches," Le Garrec told reporters.

"I learnt an enormous amount and I know I have much more to learn in different roles.

"I hope I answered what the staff asked of me as best as possible."


AFP


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