Player Ratings: Magnifique
OPINION: No matter what the fortunes of either side going into it, England-France in the Six Nations is always a highly anticipated, muscular affair and this contest was no different.
England coach Steve Borthwick had made a bold decision by starting Marcus Smith ahead of experienced flyhalf Owen Farrell, who started on the bench. Meanwhile, Les Bleus were looking to end their long drought at Twickenham, having not won there in well over a decade.
Yet it was England who looked like the away side here, with France paddling Borthwick’s men in what was very much a case of men against boys in Twickenham. Worryingly bad from England and frightening good at times from France.
Ian Cameron rates the France players!
15 Thomas Ramos – 7.5
Showed decent gas to bag his opening try, his third of the Six Nations. Some mediocre strategic kicking early on was righted and by the end he was bossing the king of pitch exchanges. Won’t have liked being used as a speed bump by opposite number Freddie Steward on his way to the line but this was mostly a very good performance.
14 Damian Penaud – 8
Showed his mettle in the frequent high-stakes kicking battles that littered the first half. A busy afternoon in the wet, which was topped off after he cantered around a knackered Freddie Steward who looked like he had lead in his boots. Bagged another a few minutes later.
13 Gael Fickou – 7.5
A couple of poor executions kicking out of hand but hit some sweet lines in attack. No box office moments this week even if his mere presence seemed to unnerve a feverish English midfield, who were suffering the effect of severe ball starvation.
12 Jonathan Danty – 8.5
Opened his account with a superb turnover 9 minutes in and showed a Manu Tuilagi-like ability to consistently break the gain line for France. Miles better than Yoram Moefana, who will find it hard to make it back into this team.
11 Ethan Dumortier – 7
Brilliant timing to put Ramos away for France’s first try but was kept relatively quiet after that.
10 Romain Ntamack – 8
Bar one shanked effort, he kicked well with ball in hand. So effortlessly cool that he looks bored most of time. His palm back for Flament’s second was low-key delightful. Magnificent.
9 Antoine Dupont – 8.5
Played his usual brand of dynamic rugby although showed he is human with a couple of handling errors in a rain-soaked Twickenham. Shone in the kicking stakes, although he was caught napping at the base of a few rucks by English defenders. Still by some distance the best player on the planet.
1 Cyril Baille – 7.5
Used as an effective carry option twice in the opening three minutes. A beautiful pick-up in wet occasions in the second half was a moment for the Toulousain.
2 Julien Marchand – 7.5
Latched onto Lewis Ludlum for a timely jackal that led to an attacking lineout for France. Got through a mountain of work with very little by way of errors.
3 Dorian Aldegheri – 8
Shipped a huge hit from Kyle Sinckler in open play but carried on gamely. Monstered Ellis Genge on 40 minutes which directly lead to Ollivon’s try.
4 Thibaud Flament – 8.5
Made a telling open-field contribution for France’s first try and got one of his own after accelerating onto a fine Dupont pop pass close to the English line. His second was a testament to his work ethic, even if it was opportunistic.
5 Paul Willemse – 7
His most convincing performance of the campaign to date.
6 Francois Cros – 7
Brought meaningful value in contact, a key carry in the lead up to Flament’s try catching the eye.
7 Charles Ollivon – 8
Did brilliantly at the less glamourous stuff, pouncing on a loose ball that had questionably popped out of an English ruck saving France’s jambon with English moving ominously towards their try line. He deservedly on the end of a five-pointer after rumbling over Marcus Smith after a dominant French scrum, and that was the ball game.
8 Gregory Alldritt – 9
A return to form for Alldritt, who hadn’t heretofore hit the heights in 2023. No quarter was shown to the English at the breakdown and the La Rochelle man won pretty much every moment in which he was involved. A phenomenal shift.
REPLACEMENTS – 5
The French bench didn’t have much to do with game decided early in the second half. Sipili Faletea’s star turn two weekends ago wasn’t quite followed up here, with Genge getting into him at the setpiece. Romain Taofifenua and Peato Mauvaka were impressive, while Moefana struggled to make an impact.