The French couldn’t beat a wounded New Zealand team on their own turf, but they ran the All Blacks closer than the 38-18 win would suggest. Here are five things we learned from the clash:
Sonny Bill Williams still sometimes plays rugby league
Just a few months removed from getting red carded against the British & Irish Lions for a rugby league style shoulder charge, SBW was once again in the referee’s bad books. This time the infringement was more technical than physical as Williams used an old league trick and slapped the ball dead in goal. This is legal in the 13 man code, but against the rules in union.
This move cost him ten minutes in the sin bin and the All Blacks conceded seven points in his absence, allowing France back into the match. Williams needs to stop giving away these silly, but costly penalties if he wants to be a lynchpin for the Kiwis at the 2017 World Cup.
Angus Gardner struggled to keep tempers in check
With France coming back into the game the All Blacks became rattled and reacted badly to several cheap shots thrown their way. Whilst Angus Gardner had a rough game, it was noticeable how lax he was on off the ball play. This, in turn, led to a number of flashpoints.
For Gardner to continue to progress as a referee he needs to be firmer with these actions to stop them spiraling out of control.
France have the potential to be superb at the World Cup
Whilst the French were dominated early by the All Blacks they came out firing in the second half and really stumped the Kiwis. They created chances and scored tries, proving that they have the ability to compete with the best in the world.
As ever though, they will need to put together a full game and finish off their chances to challenge in the Six Nations. If they can do this and make progress at the World Cup, then things will be looking up. Otherwise, it will be another disappointing couple of years for Les Blues.
The French fans are embracing the team
Even with the French down coming out of halftime, there was a great energy within their fanbase which was fanned by the home team gaining ascendancy over their illustrious opponents for large portions of the half.
This is not like the French fans of old who would have been jeering their side from very early on as they fell behind. Could this help the French team and give them momentum going forward, or are the fans just coming to expect their team to valiantly lose every time out?
Scrums can ruin games
I love scrums and it is great to see teams battling it out in the set piece.
This game, however, did not have vintage scrummaging as neither team provided stability to even get the scrum set. This resulted in a frustrated Angus Gardner pinging one side once he realised a scrum would take even longer.
There seems to be no easy answer to the problems around the scrum worldwide, but surely something needs to be done as they are eating up large swathes of the ‘ball in play’ time. We need not go to the rugby league model where the scrum is an afterthought, but it would be nice to find a middle ground.
What did you learn from this match? Comment below.
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