Following France’s 41-17 victory over Australia in their final Rugby World Cup warm-up match in Paris, here are our five takeaways.
Les Bleus’ ruthless edge
It was like a switch was flicked, and France just cut loose in that second period, with players showing off their box of tricks as the likes of Damian Penaud and Antoine Dupont put on a show for their adoring fans. The Wallabies simply could not live with what Les Bleus produced as they ran out comfortable 41-7 winners.
Finding ways to score in the blink of an eye has become synonymous with this French outfit, and it was evident again today, with kick-passes to both Penaud and Gabin Villiere showing the intelligence and confidence running through this team’s veins right now.
There are few other sides out there capable of this level of ruthlessness in possession, and it’s soul-destroying for opponents, who suddenly find themselves cut adrift from a contest, as Australia did in Paris on Sunday.
Scrum a concern for Les Bleus
While Fabien Galthie will be pleased by the comprehensive 24-point victory, he will be concerned by the performance of his starting pack, more particularly his front-row.
Les Bleus are without their star loosehead prop Cyril Baille; however, Jean-Baptiste Gros is a more than capable replacement and arguably a better scrummager, which was not evident today.
Taniela Tupou looked to be back to his best in Paris, while Angus Bell continued his fine Rugby Championship form as the pair dismantled the home side’s scrum.
The Wallabies are not renowned for their scrummaging prowess, and given that they were largely neutral against the All Blacks, Galthie and William Servat will be demanding a big improvement for the opener in a fortnight’s time.
There were also issues with Julien Marchand’s lineout throws in the first half, partly down to the noise at the Stade de France, something that is easily fixable and far better to learn before the World Cup than during it.
Discipline and goal kicking cost Wallabies
At the break, France’s 16-5 lead felt bigger than it should be and it was. The Wallabies were indeed fronting up to the task of facing the World Cup hosts; however, they were not making the most of their opportunities.
This was mainly due to the kicking of rookie fly-half Carter Gordon, who left eight points out there, missing two penalties and his conversion.
France made the Wallabies pay for that first miss in the second minute as they would go on to open the scoring just four minutes later as Jonathan Danty clattered over the line.
The opposite of France was true, as Thomas Ramos missed just twice from the tee in the entire game while Melvyn Jaminet slotted his two kicks.
While the Wallabies improved their discipline – when compared to the Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup games – as they conceded just two penalties more than France, it still was not enough.
They gave France six kickable shots at goal, four of which Ramos nailed; one he missed, and the other Jaminet kicked over. The momentum swing of Suliasi Vunivalu going to the sin bin certainly didn’t help the Wallabies’ cause as they were put 10 points further in the hole before Fraser McReight hit back, but the damage had already been done.
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Wallabies have their full-back
It’s been a jersey up for grabs after Tom Wright was unceremoniously dumped from the squad by Eddie Jones, after back-to-back starts in the Rugby Championship. Andrew Kellaway has since taken over and not looked back and in truth we expected nothing else from a composed and quality operator whether it’s for club or country.
Positionally he is superb and he offers a reliable boot and an intelligent running threat that often sees him make inroads in opposition defences. While he didn’t rack up the metres tonight, his vision and execution of pass to set up Mark Nawaqanitawase was of the highest order and he again looked unflappable at the back.
Australia’s back three all shone in Paris as Vunivalu responded well after his nightmare showing against the Springboks in Pretoria and Nawaqanitawase was as busy as ever, but Kellaway just oozes class.
Matthieu Jalibert stakes his claim in fine fashion
After it was confirmed that Romain Ntamack was ruled out of the Rugby World Cup, the two-horse race between Antoine Hastoy and Matthieu Jalibert for the number 10 jersey began.
Hastoy got his opportunity against Fiji last week, and while he made a good fist of it, Jalibert knocked it out the park.
The Bordeaux playmaker seemed the natural fit to Dupont as the pair ripped apart the Wallabies defence, with the fly-half topping the metres gained statistic gaining 100 in total.
They also gave the Australians plenty to think about with as a real triple threat of run, kick and pass.
If the question is who should start alongside Dupont against the All Blacks, Jalibert provided the answer.