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'Bad choices': French media's brutal assessment of Dupont's replacement

REACTION: The fight for the Six Nations title is not over, France coach Fabien Galthie has insisted, despite watching his team crash to the heaviest defeat since he took charge in 2019.

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Ireland outscored the French by five tries to two in Marseille on Friday in a stunning 38-17 victory that set Andy Farrell’s side on the right course in its quest for unprecedented back-to-back Grand Slam titles.

The French performance disappointed on many levels, but Galthie and players alike said there was no hangover from their World Cup quarterfinal exit at the hands of South Africa in October.

“Stunned from the off,” read the headline in France’ sport daily l’Equipe.

In the absence of Antoine Dupont, focusing on Sevens for the Paris Olympics rather than the Six Nations, Maxime Lucu took his place with Nolann Le Garrec coming off the bench.

“Bad choices and little mistakes,” was L’Equipe’s brutal assessment of Lucu, marking him a three out of 10.

His halfback partner Matthieu Jalibert also scored three, and how Galthie might wish he could align a first-choice pairing of Dupont with Romain Ntamack, albeit the latter is currently coming back from injury.

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France received a hammer blow at a packed-out Stade Velodrome when Paul Willemse was shown a second yellow card in the 32nd minute, meaning an early bath for the South Africa-born lock.

With that, the Irish pack, with the second-row pairing of Tadhg Beirne and Joe McCarthy outstanding, turned the screw to drive home their numerical superiority.

“A defeat to open the Six Nations is definitely not a positive,” said Galthie. “It’s a defeat with its negative associations.

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“We have to live with this as a squad. It’s a tough time but the tournament carries on. We still have four matches to play, with Scotland next up in eight days.”

Lacking in attack

Aside from Willemse’s red card, Galthie also highlighted the lack of attacking structure shown by his team.

“We weren’t on the ticket offensively,” he said. “Turnovers, dropped balls, less speed, we all agree.

“We prepared to deliver a fast game, to front up, to dominate the collisions. But to play with 14 players against Ireland, didn’t help us.”

Former England wing Chris Ashton, now a pundit for BBC Radio 5 Live, said France had been “awful from start to finish”, with many things to rectify before travelling to Edinburgh for what promises to be a very tough match against a strong-looking Scotland side.

“They were jogging and slow getting off the floor. They weren’t like the French team we are used to seeing. They have a lot to work on, lots of silly errors which we don’t normally associate with France,” Ashton said.

Replacement scrumhalf Le Garrec was confident that France could rebound from the loss.

“We came up against a very good, well-prepared Ireland team sure of their gameplan,” the Racing 92 player said.

“It’s up to us to get back on the horse. We’ve got four games and I feel that the team is determined.

“It’s a tough one to swallow, but we still have our destiny in our own hands.”

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