Rugby. Six Nations 2023: the Blues shaken but effective against Wales
Six Nations Tournament (5th day). France – Wales: 41-28
Intensity, play, opposition, the Blues won a pleasant match this Saturday against Wales (41-28). With five tries and 41 points scored, a record against the Leek XV, they still provided the show and filled a boiling Stade de France. And even if, with the victory of Ireland against England (29-16), the XV of France did not manage to retain its title in the Six Nations Tournament, the men of Fabien Galthié can be satisfied with to have been in the race until the last game, for the fourth consecutive year. Remarkable regularity for a formation that has become the team to beat after its perfect 2022 year and, once again, pushed to its limits.
Because this duel against Wales had everything of a trap match. Less than a week after the historic spanking inflicted on the English at Twickenham (53-10), the Blues were expected at the turn. And these Welsh people at the end of their cycle, entangled in extra-sporting affairs, beaten by the three other British nations, were all easy prey. Too easy. Led by its three centenarians – Alun Wyn Jones (158 caps), George North (113 caps) and Taulupe Faletau (100 caps)? – Warren Gatland’s team insisted that it had not won two of the last four tournaments by chance.
“I hope the other teams fear us”
Taken by the throat at the start, the Blues gave way in the seventh minute when the inevitable George North scored the 23rd try of his career in the Six Nations (third best total), the first this year. “Today, we felt that they were doing a commando with the historic players who won three Grand Slams, five Six Nations, commented Fabien Galthié. They played without complex and we saw a team from Wales able to raise the slider in a very impressive way. And, fortunately, we have a solid team which is beginning to have collective experience.
A team that has won 17 of its last 18 games, and has learned to manage its weak times and its strong times. Because despite this delicate start, the Blues have never doubted. Damian Penaud, again, equalized in stride on the first French excursion into the opposing camp (9 ‘). And the XV of France had already achieved a gap at the break (20-7) without seeming to dominate its subject. And even if everything was not perfect, especially in defense, the band of Antoine Dupont confirmed, without trembling, that it had become the pet peeve of Wales since the arrival of Fabien Galthié (five victories).
What to arrive with certainty before THE meeting of the year: the World Cup at home. “For four years, we have had 80% victories. I think that, in the history of French rugby, it has never happened”, welcomes the French coach who concedes to be “the team to beat certainly. I hope the other teams fear us too”. With eleven wins in a row at home, current series, it would be difficult to be otherwise.
Half time: 20-7.
Referee: Nic Berry (AUS).
Dots. France: 5 tries – Penaud (9′, 76′), Danty (33′), Atonio (43′), Fickou (48′) – 5 conversions – Ramos (11′, 34′, 44′, 49′, 78 ‘) – 2 penalties – Ramos (25′, 29′); Wales: 4 tries – North (7′), Roberts (55′), T. Williams (65′), Dyer (79′) – 4 conversions – Biggar (7′, 56′, 66′), Halfpenny ( 80’).
FRANCE : Ramos – Penaud, Fickou, Danty, Dumortier (Moefana 74′) – (o) Ntamack, (m) Dupont (cap.) (Lucu 74′) – Ollivon (Macalou 74′), Alldritt, Cros – R. Taofifenua (Chalureau 59′), Flament – Atonio (Falatea 47′), Marchand (Mauvaka 49′), Baille (Wardi 49′).
Not entered: Jaminet.
WALES : Rees-Zammit (Halfpenny 75′) – Adams, North, Tompkins, Dyer – (o) Biggar (O. Williams 75′), (m) Webb (T. Williams 54′) – Tipuric, Faletau (Reffell, 62′) , Wainwright – Alun Wyn Jones (Jenkins 24′, AW Jones 37′, Jenkins 44′), Beard – Francis (Lewis 57′), Owens (cap.) (Thomas, 44′), W. Jones (Roberts 44′) .
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