Six Nations: Five takeaways from France v Wales as Les Bleus’ quality shows in Paris
Following a 41-28 victory for France over Wales in their Six Nations fixture, here’s our five takeaways from the match at the Stade de France on Saturday.
Gulf in class clear to see
It’s been mentioned this campaign that the Six Nations feels like it’s broken down into at least two categories in terms of quality. Ireland and France are viewed as streets ahead of the rest at the top; then there’s the middle ground of Scotland and England before Wales and Italy make up the lower bracket of the teams.
We’d tend to disagree slightly and don’t feel there’s a great deal between the other sides in the Six Nations, but, yes, Ireland and France are out in front.
France showed this once again on Saturday as for the large part of the match – like against England – it looked like men against boys in terms of power, speed of thought, quality and more. Make no mistake about this Les Bleus side; they are serious contenders to win the Rugby World Cup on home soil and are rightly favourites.
Jonathan Danty making all the difference
France, with and without the gargantuan centre, is like chalk and cheese. He is just showing what a focal point in the midfield can do to a side, with the 30-year-old’s influence evident over the past two weeks. Danty’s physicality is automatically a huge boost, giving them easy front foot ball should they need a bit of go-forward in the closer exchanges, but he offers so much more than that.
The La Rochelle star’s breakdown influence was obvious in their dominant victory over England and although Wales did a better job of shackling him in Paris, he still managed to disrupt their ball. Danty also has an excellent skill set, and it was obvious the French playmakers – Antoine Dupont, Romain Ntamack and Thomas Ramos – all enjoyed playing around him.
Wales far too easy to breach
The first and last 20 minutes from Wales were pretty good, but in between, when France had more of the ball, it was all a bit too easy for the hosts. Yes, Les Bleus have re-found their form, and they are a very difficult team to stop, but Warren Gatland’s men simply have to do better.
In truth, we’re not quite sure what Gatland has been trying to do in this Six Nations. His constant chopping and changing doesn’t make it easy for anyone, and especially the new coaches who are attempting to implement a different system.
At the moment, the head coach doesn’t know what his 23 will be which takes to the field in their first World Cup match, and that is a real problem, especially with just friendly games to go until the start of the global tournament. His return has certainly not gone to plan.
Dupont and Ntamack make the ridiculous look effortless
Dupont and Ntamack continue to light up the Test arena. The pair may not have been on top of their game in the opening match but have undoubtedly improved as the competition has progressed. We saw the best of them against England last week, continuing that form against Wales.
Ntamack cruised through the Welsh defence as if it was not even there before providing a slick offload to his half-back partner. Dupont then fizzed a fantastic long pass out to Damian Penaud for France’s opening try.
The entire attacking passage was executed to an elite accuracy, with Dupont reacting to Ntamack’s every move with telepathic precision.
That try was a clear highlight of the pair making the ridiculous look effortless, but the clash at the Stade de France was filled with the duo producing world-class moments.
Their kicking game is on another level, their spatial awareness on another level to the other players on the pitch, while their game management has taken Les Bleus to their current high.
Profitable campaigns for Penaud and Ramos
It’s hard to find any France player who had a below-par campaign, as so many of them put their hand up with consistent performance after consistent performance.
While Dupont tends to dominate the spotlight, the numbers racked up this Six Nations by Penaud and Ramos are impressive. The wing finished with a tournament-high five tries on the board while Ramos was streets ahead in the points chart, ending on 89, a whopping 55 ahead of the second-placed Tommaso Allan.
While Penaud has been a nailed-on starter for some time in blue, Ramos has quietly been one of the major success stories of this Six Nations for the French and can be delighted with his efforts.
READ MORE: Six Nations: France finish campaign in style with bonus-point success over Wales
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