Six Nations Countdown: France
The exciting Six Nations is just weeks away, and all of France will be hoping for something better.
The first thing to do is to get rid of words like flair, style and panache when you speak of France’s rugby. The unexpected is buried in the heap of modern predictability. More’s the pity. It’s no longer a question of which French team will pitch up; it’s always the same, dull team.
In addition, France of late have not been as successful as of yore. In the 2018 Six Nations, they finished a lowly, for them, fourth and World Rugby now rank them eighth, one place below Scotland.
France has not always been in the International Championship. They were first admitted in 1910 and then turfed out in 1931 because of “brutality” and doubtful adherence to the amateur principle. They came back in 1947 but did not win the championship till 1959. Their first Grand Slam was in 1968. Altogether they have won the “Grand Chelem” nine times, the last in 2010. With 20 championship titles, they are third behind England and Wales.
2018 Final Positions after Five Matches Each
France beat Italy and England, and lost to Ireland, Wales and Scotland.
France’s 2018 Results
It was a bad year for France. They won just three out of 11 matches and in their final match of the year were humiliated by Fiji at Stade de France in Paris.
France lost to Ireland 15-13 at Stade de France, Paris
France lost to Scotland 32-26 at Murrayfield, Edinburgh
France beat Italy 34-17 at Stade Vélodrome, Marseille
France beat England 22-16 at Stade de France, Paris
France lost to Wales 14-13 at Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
France lost to New Zealand 52-11 at Eden Park, Auckland
France lost to New Zealand 26-13 at Westpac Trust, Wellington
France lost to New Zealand 49-14 at Otago Stadium, Dunedin
France lost to South Africa 29-26 at Stade de France, Paris
France beat Argentina 28-13 at Stade Pierre-Mauroy, Lille
France lost to Fiji 21-14 at Stade de France, Paris
France’s Six Nations Fixtures
France will be kicking off the 2019 Six Nations when Wales come across. Les Bleus will be hoping for a much better performance from their team this year.
In 2018, they played three matches in France, two away. This year they will play two at home and three away.
1 February 2019
France vs Wales at Stade de France
10 February 2019
England vs France at Twickenham
23 February 2019
France vs Scotland at Stade de France
10 March 2019
Ireland vs France at Aviva Stadium
16 March 2019
Italy vs France at Stadio Olimpico, Rome
France announced their squad. It’s not easy in France where there is so much talent and yet so many foreigners – nearly 40% in the Top 14, of whom Bordeaux-Bègles, Grenoble and Clermont Auvergne have most and Pau the highest percentage, just over 50%.
But in the squad there are few “foreigners’ and they all hold French passports – South Africans Bernard le Roux from Moorreesburg and Paul Willemse of Pretoria, Uini Atonio of Samoa via Timaru and Dany Priso of Cameroon. Sébastien Vaha’amahina is from New Caledonia in the South Pacific, a remote left-over from the French Empire.
Still there is so much talent that it’s a wonder that they have not done better recently. If you have backs like Baptiste Serin, Camille Lopez, Gaël Fickou, Wesley Fofana, Yoann Huget and Maxime Médard who is perhaps slower but still just as wily.
But! But there is no Teddy Thomas. One of the most exciting players in the world, he has had been much absent. He incurred the wrath of coach Brunel because of unbecoming behaviour and then has been injured – out for five weeks and then off early in Racing’s match with Toulon. Pity.
France Squad for the 2019 Six Nations
Forwards: Dorian Aldegheri, Gregory Alldritt, Uini Atonio, Demba Bamba, Pierre Bourgarit, Yacouba Camara, Guillhem Guirado (captain), Arthur Iturria, Felix Lambey, Wenceslas Lauret, Bernard Le Roux, Julien Marchand, Louis Picamoles, Jefferson Poi rot, Dany Priso, Sébastien Vahaamahina, Paul Willemse.
Backs: Mathieu Bastareaud, Anthony Belleau, Geoffrey Doumayrou, Antoine Dupont, Gaël Fickou, Wesley Fofana, Yoann Huget, Camille Lopez, Maxime Médard, Romain Ntamack, Morgan Parra, Damian Penaud, Thomas Ramos, Baptiste Serin.
Five of the Six Nations countries have foreigners as head coaches. The two exceptions are Scotland and France. France has 65-year-old Jacques Brunel, who came home from France after a 22% win record with Italy. In 2018, France had a 27% win record.
Prediction: France to beat Scotland and Italy and end fourth – or perhaps fifth. Mind you, Italy have twice beaten France in the Six Nations and this match is in Rome.
France is in need of a resurrection.
If it happens this year, the rugby world will rejoice.
By Paul Dobson