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French Rugby Column February 8 || By: Howard Johnson

April 24, 2020 2 min read

There’s no denying that France were impressive in starting their 2010
Six Nations campaign with a thoroughly deserved victory against
Scotland in Edinburgh. But it’s far too early to start sounding any
clarion calls about French chances of victory in the competition.
Scotland were a blunt instrument.

The working parts all whirred and buzzed and made a lot of noise, but they had no cutting edge at all and France were able to snuff out any of the home side’s attacking threat with almost embarrassing ease. By half time the game was all
but over as a contest and there was no greater proof than the fact that
after 40 minutes conversation in the village bar where I’d chosen to
watch the encounter had already turned to what was going to be on
the telly later, the latest football scores and what exactly Mathieu
Bastareaud was doing with such a ridiculous moustache! Head Coach
Marc Lievremont will have plenty of food for thought before he names
his side to face Ireland at the Stade de France next Saturday and he
may secretly be wishing that his team had undergone a more thorough
examination up at Murrayfield. But he will certainly have seen some
encouraging signs in the French play.

Les Bleus were pragmatic overall, making sure that sensible options were in the main taken. They barely kicked the ball all game and tried to make the most of
retained possession, producing a number of exciting phases of running
play, the like of which we didn’t see much of over at Twickenham the
day before. Whether the same tactic will pay dividends against a more
streetwise opponent who will perhaps be able to isolate ball carriers
and force either turnover or penalties remains to be seen. But at least
it was exciting to watch a team really trying to play from everywhere.

That said, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a more conservative French
game against the Irish, with Lievremont’s men relying on a pack that
seems to be all of solid, determined and aggressive to dominate the
opposition and drive field position. It’s good to see a French side that
looks more than capable of holding its own when it comes to piano
shifting rather than piano playing after a few years lost in the front
row wilderness. The one to three line-up of Domingo, Servat and Mas
that performed against Scotland looks good to me and I think we can
look forward to some titanic battles in the weeks to come with these
three units on the park.

And talking of units, we shouldn’t forget Mathieu Bastareaud, the ‘bad
boy’ of French rugby who really is a handful at outside centre. With the
body of a front row enforcer and the speed of a will o’ the wisp full
back, at just 21 years old he looks like he has everything in his locker
to become the ultimate modern day centre. Bastareaud is a beast who
understands beauty and wouldn’t it be nice if England had a similar
option at centre?! With one eye already on what could be a decisive
final game of this 2010 Six Nations when Martin Johnson’s men head
to Paris on March 20, if things go well for the French then Bastareaud
could end up having a very big say on where this year’s trophy finally
ends up.