Frédéric Michalak inspired France to a convincing 41-18 bonus-point victory over Canada in Milton Keynes on Thursday. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
France have now all but secured their place in the quarter-finals. The only way they can be denied progression out of the pool stage, is if Italy record two bonus-point wins in their next couple of games against Ireland and Romania respectively.
Evergreen Michalak put in an outstanding shift for France, who ultimately outscored the brave Canadians five tries to two in a high-tempo affair.
It may have been France’s second biggest victory, but it was also their most disciplined showing at the World Cup to date. Canada put in yet another brave performance, but faded towards the end.
A lapse in concentration by the Canadians led to France's opening try. The ball was turned over at a ruck and Michalak picked a gap between two defenders, straightened, fended off the cover tackler and flicked the ball to Fofana who ran a wonderful support line to finish in the corner.
Michalak converted from the touchline before adding a penalty goal, as France raced out to a 10-0 lead.
Maintaining momentum, French hooker Guilhem Guirado crossed for their second converted effort. However, Canadian resilience suddenly sparked to life delivering two late first-half tries by winger DTH van der Merwe and hooker Aaron Carpenter.
Then, working their their way into opposition territory, France won a penalty and opted to set the lineout. Soon after their lead was cut to five points, this decision was vindicated when tighthead prop Rabah Slimani crashed over for Les Bleus’ third try. Michalak converted for a 12-point advantage at the break.
The fast-paced game continued in the second half, but this time Canada got the first points. Hirayama nailed two penalties, closing the deficit to six. France then slowed things down and kept the ball among the forwards, much to Canada’s frustration.
Michalak kicked a second penalty, before converted tries by lock Pascal Pape and debutant wing Remy Grosso capped off a solid performance by the French.
France – Tries: Wesley Fofana, Guilhem Guirado, Rabah Slimani, Pascal Pape, Remy Grosso. Conversions: Frédéric Michalak (4), Morgan Parra. Penalties: Michalak (2).
Canada – Tries: DTH van der Merwe, Aaron Carpenter. Conversion: Nathan Hirayama. Penalties: Hirayama (2).
France – 15 Scott Spedding, 14 Remy Grosso, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Brice Dulin, 10 Frédéric Michalak, 9 Sebastien Tillous-Borde, 8 Damien Chouly, 7 Bernard le Roux, 6 Thierry Dusautoir (c), 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Pascal Pape, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Guilhem Guirado, 1 Eddy Ben Arous.
Subs: 16 Benjamin Kayser, 17 Vincent Debaty, 18 Nicolas Mas, 19 Yannick Nyanga, 20 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 21 Morgan Parra, 22 Remi Tales, 23 Alexandre Dumoulin.
Canada – 15 Matt Evans, 14 Phil Mackenzie, 13 Ciaran Hearn, 12 Nick Blevins, 11 DTH van der Merwe, 10 Nathan Hirayama, 9 Phil Mack, 8 Tyler Ardron (c), 7 Richard Thorpe, 6 Kyle Gilmour, 5 Jamie Cudmore, 4 Brett Beukeboom, 3 Doug Wooldridge, 2 Aaron Carpenter, 1 Hubert Buydens. Subs: 16 Ray Barkwill, 17 Djustice Sears-Duru, 18 Andrew Tiedemann, 19 Evan Olmstead, 20 Nanyak Dala, 21 Gordon McRorie, 22 Harry Jones, 23 Conor Trainor.
Photo: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images