Unpredictable. There is no better word to describe France’s World Cup performances and French rugby in general, writes DYLAN JACK in previewing the outsiders for the bumper edition of SA Rugby magazine.
The phrase ‘Which team will show up?’ has become synonymous with France as they have made a habit of going from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows very quickly.
However, France have struggled recently to achieve the highs of the past, with their win percentage in the low 30s since the beginning of 2018.
In the final three Test matches of 2018, France went from coming within four points of a win over the Springboks and beating an improving Argentina side, to infamously losing 21-14 to Fiji, which was their first defeat by the Pacific Islanders. That pattern continued into this year, as France beat Scotland and pushed Wales close, but were ruthlessly hammered by England.
France are well organised defensively, tackling with a dogged intensity. However, they have become simplistic on attack, not venturing too far away from one-off runners close to the ruck. In essence, this has made France experts at pulling teams down to their level, forcing their opponents into a dogfight and resulting in some close losses in the Six Nations.
The emergence of young talent in the likes of Romain Ntamack, Antoine Dupont and Demba Bamba does offer the French a glimmer of hope. Dupont, in particular, has been excellent in helping Toulouse reclaim the Top 14 title.
If Jacques Brunel can mesh the mavericks with the gnarled experience of Louis Picamoles and Guilhem Guirado, France will have a chance of qualifying for the playoffs. Les Bleus will be acutely aware of the need to win at least one of their matches against England or Argentina, as a loss in either match could bring a premature end to their campaign.
France go into this World Cup with their proud record of always progressing to the playoffs more under threat than it has ever been. Whether they can find the harmony and consistency to match previous feats remains to be seen.
0 – France have never failed to progress from the group phase.
– This is a snippet from October issue of SA Rugby Magazine that previews every team at the World Cup, now on sale!
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