Player Ratings: France
OPINION: A Mark Telea try gave New Zealand the lead just two minutes into the Rugby World Cup 2023 opening match in Paris, but France came back through the phenomenal boot of Tomas Ramos and some standout performances up front, resulting in the All Blacks‘ first ever pool loss in the tournament’s history.
The 27-13 win came about as France shut down New Zealand’s attacking chances and put them on the back foot, with a few players in particular catching the eye as France turned up the heat in the second half.
Grant Constable rates the French players:
1. Reda Wardi – 7
Despite earning just the third start of his career, Wardi left a significant impact before going off to a planned substitution in the 52nd minute. He proved his worth up front by contributing to France’s solid pack and worked hard throughout. An impressive performance overall.
2. Julien Marchand – 7
The French hooker, who unfortunately had to leave the field due to injury in the 10th minute, ironically paved the way for his replacement to light up the pitch. But in his brief stint before injury, his breakdown work was outstanding and sadly led to a hamstring injury. Difficult to rate, but put in a good performance while on the field.
3. Uini Atonio – 8
An almighty performance up front from the New Zealand-born behemoth who dominated his opposite number in the scrums, earning two penalties in succession and made some big clearouts and good touches in the loose. He worked hard for all 52 minutes he was on the field.
4. Cameron Woki – 7
Industrious up front as he stepped up when needed, considering the loss to injury of Paul Willemse just before the tournament started. Carried well, won some lineouts and marshalled the French maul. Contributed well in just over a half of rugby.
5. Thibaud Flament – 7
A solid cog in the wheel of the team effort that led to the win, Flament carried well, was good in the set piece and actually broke the line to almost score at one stage. A valuable member of the pack.
6. Francois Cros – 7
Much like Flament, Cros made some big tackles and had a good work rate in the tight loose. He was overshadowed by the likes of Aldritt, but made a solid contribution to the game.
7. Charles Ollivon – 6
Tackled well and won important lineouts, Ollivon had a fairly quiet game but made a few impressive runs and lineout steals, as well as showed some good tackling to shut down New Zealand opportunities.
8. Gregory Alldritt – 9
An immense performance from the standout player on the park, Alldritt worked hard throughout with multiple strong carries, a brilliant turnover and in general he showed why he’s started eight of nine of France’s latest games. The 26-year-old rightly earned the Man of the Match title, and was a workhorse that led from the front, with 42 meters carried in just the first half alone.
9. Antoine Dupont – 8
Not his best-ever performance for France, but he met his usual high standards and marshalled his troops despite the pressure he faced from Aaron Smith for most of the match. He cleared well from the base and even took on Beauden Barrett in a sprint, in his 50th Test for his country.
10. Matthieu Jalibert – 8
A bit of a mixed- bag for Jalibert but in the key moments he stepped up, despite some leaky tackling early on. He cleared the line well and did make a crucial tackle on the dangerous Telea, and created what should have been a stunning try in the corner for winger Penaud, then set him up again with some lovely play. Will grow in confidence from this performance.
11. Gabin Villiere – 6
Despite the comfortable win for France, exciting winger Villiere had very few opportunities and at times was guilty of trying to create things out of nothing, which led to turnovers. He did have one good run that led to a penalty for France, but will be hoping he gets more ball in hand if he gets a chance against Uruguay.
12. Yoram Moefana – 6
Playing in his 19th Test for France, Moefana didn’t have a lot of ball to work with in hand but made some important tackles and clearouts at the breakdown. He handled the pressure of the big occasion well and did his job to keep the dangerous New Zealand backs at bay, but had a fairly quiet game.
13. Gael Fickou – 7
Playing in his third Rugby World Up with 81 Tests, Fickou appeared to be guilty of a bad defensive read in the opening minutes of the game as Rieko Ioane streaked through, leading to New Zealand’s first try. He bounced back though and much like Moefana, put in a solid shift and tackled well in the midfield.
14. Damian Penaud – 8
The big winger had very few opportunities in the first half but worked hard to look for chances and defend well. The ball went his way in the second period though as he nearly scored in the corner, but for a brilliant Richie Mo’unga covering tackle and the ball in the wrong hand.
He did end up scoring eventually, following on from scoring against New Zealand when they beat them 40-25 in 2021.
He has now scored in his last five Tests, with nine for the year.
15. Thomas Ramos – 9
The fullback was crucial in keeping the scoreboard ticking over and was outstanding under the high ball, making just two clear mistakes all match – one dropped ball and one missed kick due to pressure from the shot clock. Aside from that, he was key in France’s win and included a 50-meter penalty kick in his repertoire.
In his 28th match for his country, this was actually his first against the All Blacks.
16. Peato Mauvaka – 9
Surely close to getting Man of the Match, hooker Mauvaka put in a storming performance after coming on early due to the unfortunate injury to Marchand. He made big hits, a brilliant break and chip and chase down the wing, showed great hands in the loose and took a quick tap late to nearly set up another try from the counterattack. A standout performance.
17. Jean-Baptiste Gros – 6
The front rower came on with fresh legs to keep the forward pack moving forward and didn’t put much of a foot wrong, making some impressive tackles.
18. Dorian Aldegheri – 6
As with Gros, front row life isn’t about the glamour and Aldegheri worked hard in the dark corners and made sure that his backs were moving forward. Powerful at the breakdown.
19. Romain Taofifenua – 8
Taofifenua came on for Woki in the 49th minute and put in a good shift, working hard to show his physicality and fly into some of the hapless All Blacks at the breakdown. He also showed a few nice touches.
20. Paul Boudehent – 8
Young Boudehent came on at the 62-minute mark and immediately made an impact with a commanding chop tackle that created a turnover and led to another dangerous French attack. The 23-year-old has a big future ahead and this may well be the tournament that further boosts his name.
21. Maxime Lucu – 7
The replacement halfback came on with just 5 minutes left so couldn’t make a huge difference in a winning effort, but he did put in the nicely placed kick that set up Jaminet’s try at the end. He has big boots to full but didn’t put a foot wrong.
22. Arthur Vincent – 7
The highly rated Vincent wasn’t on for very long before making a brilliant turnover on Talea, leading to a try. Powerful in the turnover and some may say a better option than Moefana. It’ll be interesting to see how he is used for the rest of the tournament.
23. Melvyn Jaminet – 8
Difficult to give him a fair rating with just 5 minutes on the park, but Jaminet came on and scored with what appeared to be his very first touch of the ball, plucking it out of the air ahead of teammate Penaud.
He scored 20 points against the All Blacks in 2021, so seems to have found his favourite team to play against.
By Grant Constable, @RugbyPass