France warmed up for their shot at the 2020 Six Nations title by claiming a convincing 38-21 win over Wales in Paris on Saturday evening. DYLAN JACK reports.
Fabien Galthié’s side will host Ireland in the final match of the rescheduled Six Nations next Saturday.
France are currently in third place on the Six Nations table, with 13 points, while Ireland lead the standings on 14 points after their bonus-point win against Italy earlier on Saturday. That essentially makes next weekend’s clash a final of sorts as both teams will be playing for the title.
If France’s display against Wales is anything to go by, that game is set to be a cracker as Les Bleus lit up the Stade de France with some enterprising rugby after falling behind early on in the contest.
Wales started the stronger of the two sides as they opened up a 10-0 lead through a try from Leigh Halfpenny in the opening minute before Dan Biggar slotted the conversion and his first penalty. France briefly hit back when loosehead prop Cyril Baille bashed his way over the line from short range, but Biggar kept the scoreboard ticking over with his second penalty.
However, France struck a decisive blow just before the break as they started bringing Virimi Vakatawa into the game, with the outside centre twice combining with scrumhalf Antoine Dupont to give the hosts a 21-13 lead at the break.
Biggar and Ntamack traded a penalty each at the start of the second half, but Biggar missed his next couple of attempts which would have brought Wales right back into the match. That proved to be costly as Dupont then made an excellent linebreak and passed on his inside to his captain Charles Ollivon, who had a relatively comfortable run-in to score.
Wales briefly gave themselves hope of a comeback when replacement prop Nick Smith was driven over the tryline, but those hopes were quickly dashed by a moment of brilliance from Teddy Thomas as the wing gathered his own chip over the defence and dotted down to put the game to bed.
France – Tries: Cyril Baille, Antoine Dupont (2), Charles Ollivon, Teddy Thomas. Conversions: Romain Ntamack (5). Penalty: Ntamack.
Wales – Tries: Leigh Halfpenny, Nicky Smith. Conversions: Dan Biggar. Penalties: Biggar (3).
France – 15 Anthony Bouthier, 14 Teddy Thomas, 13 Virimi Vakatawa, 12 Gaël Fickou, 11 Vincent Rattez, 10 Romain Ntamack, 9 Antoine Dupont, 8 Grégory Alldritt, 7 Charles Ollivon (c), 6 François Cros, 5 Paul Willemse, 4 Bernard le Roux, 3 Mohamed Haouas, 2 Julien Marchand, 1 Cyril Baille.
Subs: 16 Camille Chat, 17 Jean-Baptiste Gros, 18 Demba Bamba, 19 Romain Taofifénua, 20 Dylan Cretin, 21 Baptiste Serin, 22 Arthur Vincent, 23 Thomas Ramos.
Wales – 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 George North, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Nick Tompkins, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Rhys Webb, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Aaron Wainwright, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 4 Cory Hill, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Ryan Elias, 1 Rhys Carre.
Subs: 16 Sam Parry, 17 Nicky Smith, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Seb Davies, 20 James Davies, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Rhys Patchell, 23 Louis Rees-Zammit.
Photo: ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP via Getty Images