France’s second-string prove too strong for spirited Fiji side

Colin Newboult

Uini Atonio in action for France in 2023.

France continued their Rugby World Cup preparations with a deserved 34-17 triumph over Fiji at the Stade de la Beaujoire in Nantes on Saturday.

Despite fielding a makeshift side, Les Bleus still impressed and opened up a 16-3 advantage through Peato Mauvaka’s try and three Melvyn Jaminet penalties.

Tevita Ikanivere then responded for the visitors, adding to Caleb Muntz’s earlier three-pointer, but Uini Atonio gave the home side an 11-point buffer at the break.

France would remain in control of the match in the second period with Sekou Macalou’s try and the accurate boot of Jaminet completing the win.

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The Frenchmen were playing for their World Cup places, with Fabien Galthie announcing his final 33 next week, but those on the field rose to the challenge.

Jaminet and Louis Bielle-Biarrey are two individuals who may be on the fringes at the moment, but they did all they could to force their way in.

The latter, who is just 20, was constantly involved, making a number of searing breaks, while the former benefited from the wing’s work, kicking accurately off the tee after the Fijians had infringed.

Les Bleus exerted plenty of pressure in the early stages and earned three kickable penalties, which Jaminet converted for a 9-0 lead.

Muntz responded with one of his own but France were doing most of the running and Mauvaka rewarded their endeavour by touching down.

To Fiji’s credit, they continued to battle and got themselves back into the game when hooker Ikanivere barged over from close range.

However, France remained in the ascendency and moved 21-10 in front at the break as Atonio crossed the whitewash.

Jaminet then extended the hosts’ buffer with a fourth penalty but the Flying Fijians would not go away and were back in the contest via Semi Radradra’s effort.

The Pacific Islanders were competing well with the World Cup hosts but an error from Frank Lomani put the result beyond doubt.

Lomani was looking to move the ball into midfield off a lineout but it was easily read by Macalou, who intercepted and sauntered across the whitewash unopposed.

Jaminet converted for a second time and then kicked a fifth three-pointer with 10 minutes remaining to seal the win.

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