England vs France: Allez Les Bleus!

At long last an actual performance from France!  I’ve been saying all week that France would find their mojo in time for their match against England and (sadly for England supporters like me) boy, did they bring it!

The location this week for my viewing was very different to the usual living room or Old Coventrians RFC clubhouse, this week; I travelled far… and watched the match at Minehead Barbarians RFC.  Not deliberately, you understand… I was in Minehead for a Hen Weekend… I couldn’t think of a better place to watch the match when away from home, than at another rugby club!

Only five of us Hens made the journey (the other 14 were ensconced in a bar at the Butlins site we were staying at) and what a wonderful welcome we got!  Delight and banter sums it up perfectly, I think!  Beefy (behind the bar) made sure our drinks were well topped up and once he was informed that one of our England Rugby faithful was pregnant, he was happy to serve water!

Back to the game.  Hallelujah!  French rugby, Top 14-style at last!  Scott Spedding finally delivered – Philippe Saint-Andre must have been delighted, because at one point, England were in such disarray, it looked as though France would win.

England were disappointing in defence, allowing France to capitalise on errors and expose HUGE holes in the England defence.  Bomber must have been wondering what on earth had happened to his team, who – on paper at least, should have hammered Les Bleus into the ground.  The Twickenham faithful were silenced by Les Bleus – surely their goal?

The result 55-35 looks good for England, but knowing they needed a clear 26-point victory over France did little to cheer a shocked England team, but had a massive effect on the French side, who’d been struggling to bring any flair to the RBS 6 Nations this year.

Of the twelve tries scored throughout the game, France demonstrated their ability to spot issues with the England defence and dance their way through the gaps.  This match was all about in-game management and whilst they didn’t win, scoring a massive 5 tries against an England team tipped to win the tournament, showed that France have finally managed to get their in-game management right.

A few words on the Lawes tackle on Jules Plisson; in my opinion, it was fine.  Lawes is a giant of a man and running at the pace he was, with Plisson in his sights, he was fully committed to that tackle well before the ball left Plisson’s hands.  There’s no denying it was a huge hit, but that’s what Lawes is paid to do.  That France have requested that Lawes is cited for that tackle, but as the Referee at the time made the most of TMO technology to check for any infringement and didn’t see anything worthy of the sin-bin, I do feel the French are merely making a point.

Statistics show a close match; France had 53% territory and 57% possession – as has been the story of the tournament, France should have made more of this and should have won.

My French players of the tournament – there are two – Dusautoir, for leading his team with dignity when he must have been wondering what on earth was happening at times and Jules Plisson – definitely one to watch and could be a real star for France in the Rugby World Cup 2015.

As for Philippe Saint-Andre – hero or villain?  Who knows?  He still has his job – no doubt preventing England from winning the Six Nations has helped, but will there be the same levels of experimentation this autumn?  Who knows, but I will be at Twickenham to watch France play a World Cup warm-up match against England and I’ll let you know.

By the way, if you’re in that part of the world, pay a visit to http://www.mineheadbarbarians.co.uk/ you will be welcomed warmly!