Five-try France punish Wales in Paris


France outside-half Romain Ntamack tackled in full flight
France (21) 38
Tries: Baille, Dupont 2, Ollivon, Thomas Cons: Ntamack 5 Pen: Ntamack
Wales (13) 21
Tries: Halfpenny, N Smith Con: Biggar Pens: Biggar 3

France scrum-half Antoine Dupont inspired his side to victory over Wales in a Six Nations warm-up match behind closed doors in Paris.

Dupont scored two tries and created another for captain Charles Ollivon, with Cyril Baille and Teddy Thomas also crossing.

Leigh Halfpenny scored a try for Wales inside the opening minute as the visitors built an early 10-point lead.

But it was a fourth successive defeat for Wales under head coach Wayne Pivac.

Wales struggled to break down a Shaun Edwards-inspired French defence following the early flourish.

Dupont and France centre Virimi Vakatawa proved the class acts on show while outside-half Romain Ntamack kicked 13 points, with opposite number Dan Biggar missing three attempts.

France lock Bernard le Roux was lucky to avoid any sanction for an apparent forearm to the face of Alun Wyn Jones.

So Wales could not find the win to mark the 148th world record equalling Test appearance of captain Jones, who drew level with New Zealand former skipper Richie McCaw.

This Welsh defeat followed Six Nations losses against Ireland, France and England, with only one win in the last seven internationals.

On the final weekend of the delayed Six Nations, Wales host Scotland, England travel to face Italy, while France will be home against Ireland.

France, Ireland and England can still win the tournament next week, while Wales and Scotland will be battling it out for fourth place.

International rugby return

This was the 100th match between France and Wales since the opening contest in 1908 and it had been 231 days since Pivac’s side last played, against England at Twickenham.

It was just over seven months since Wales were due to finish their Six Nations campaign against Scotland in Cardiff before the coronavirus crisis saw that fixture postponed.

So we had the unusual circumstances of a friendly against France as a warm-up ahead of a Six Nations tournament finale in October.

The match was played behind closed doors at the vast Stade de France arena in Paris, a city under night-time curfew hosting opponents from a country in lockdown.

Both sides were strong and close to the Six Nations line-ups in Cardiff in February, when France won 27-23.

Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones runs out in Paris for his world record equalling 148th international
Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones runs out in Paris for his world record equalling 148th international

Wales made seven changes from the team which had been due to start against Scotland in March.

Josh Adams, Jonathan Davies, Rhys Carre, Ryan Elias, Samson Lee, Aaron Wainwright and Taulupe Faletau all came in.

Centre Davies was back for his first game since November 2019 after recovering from a knee injury, while scrum-half Rhys Webb started an international for the first time in almost three years.

French players will only be allowed to play a maximum of three matches each during the six-game autumn campaign, after the French Rugby Federation and the French league came to an agreement last week over player availability away from club duty.

It was thought France might be more battle-hardened thanks to more domestic action, but it was Wales who took the stunning early initiative.

Fast start

Wales scored within 58 seconds with full-back Halfpenny coasting over following a well-worked move, including a beautiful long pass from flanker Justin Tipuric.

Biggar was given the kicking duties instead of Halfpenny and slotted over the touchline conversion. The Northampton fly-half added a penalty before suffering a leg injury but managed to continue.

France responded with a scything break from half-backs Ntamack and Dupont and a last-ditch tackle from Adams could not stop the French momentum and Baille diving over. Ntamack converted before Biggar responded with his second penalty.

French flair

France demonstrated their attacking brilliance with an outrageous offload from Vakatawa, allowing Thomas to provide the try-scoring pass to Dupont with Ntamack converting to give the hosts the lead.

Wales prop Lee was replaced by Dillon Lewis before fellow front-rower Carre knocked on and France took full advantage.

Vakatawa again proved the catalyst with a clever inside pass to Dupont for his second try in four minutes, which Ntamack again improved to give France a 21-13 half-time lead.

Biggar and Ntamack exchanged early second-half penalties before Ospreys hooker Sam Parry and Gloucester wing Louis Rees-Zammit were handed their debuts from the bench.

Biggar missed two penalty attempts and the chance to put Wales within a score and France punished the visitors with a Dupont break and Ollivon score.

Wales immediately responded with a try from replacement prop Nicky Smith before a magical moment from France wing Thomas completed the scoring as he collected his own deft chip-kick.

Wales head coach Wayne Pivac: “It was certainly a game we needed and you could see that with the mistakes we made.

“We didn’t have our best day in the air. There are a lot of sore bodies in the changing room and plenty to work on.

“We started well but let the French back in with our errors. We need to start well against Scotland next week and push on.”

France: Anthony Bouthier; Teddy Thomas, Virimi Vakatawa, Gael Fickou, Vincent Rattez; Romain Ntamack, Antoine Dupont; Cyril Baille, Julien Marchand, Mohamed Haouas, Bernard Le Roux, Paul Willemse, Francois Cros, Charles Ollivon (capt), Gregory Alldritt

Replacements: Camille Chat, Jean-Baptiste Gros, Demba Bamba, Romain Taofifenua, Dylan Cretin, Baptiste Serin, Arthur Vincent, Thomas Ramos.

Wales: Leigh Halfpenny; George North, Jonathan Davies, Nick Tompkins, Josh Adams; Dan Biggar, Rhys Webb; Rhys Carre, Ryan Elias, Samson Lee, Cory Hill, Alun Wyn Jones (capt), Aaron Wainwright, Taulupe Faletau, Justin Tipuric.

Replacements: Sam Parry, Nicky Smith, Dillon Lewis, Seb Davies, James Davies, Gareth Davies, Rhys Patchell, Louis Rees-Zammit.

Referee: Karl Dickson (RFU)

Assistant referees: Frank Murphy (IRFU), Ian Tempest (RFU)

TMO: Brian MacNeice (IRFU).

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