Rugby Union: Scots floored as French rediscover the F word
A side featuring four international debutants and just six members of Laporte's World Cup squad had far too much class, imagination and pace forScotland
EDINBURGH, February 4, 2008 - Under his predecessor Bernard Laporte it was
regarded as a dirty word, but Marc Lievremont's desire to make flair once more
synonymous with French rugby has paid an immediate dividend.
A side featuring four international debutants and just six members of
Laporte's World Cup squad had far too much class, imagination and pace for
Scotland, whose own hopes of making an impression on this year's Six Nations
were thrown into sharp relief by a 27-6 hammering at Murrayfield on Sunday.
For the Scots, who travel to Wales for their second match this coming
weekend, the grim reality was that it could have been worse.
For the French, things can only get better and their next opponents
Ireland, unconvincing winners over Italy on home turf on Saturday, will be
nervous tourists in Paris.
Lievremont, who took over as head coach following last year's World Cup,
was delighted by the quality of the performance from a group of players who
had had only a few days to get to know each other.
"I'm delighted, it is as good, if not better, than we could have hoped
for," said the former international flanker.
"They played a lot of good rugby but they also displayed a lot of spirit
and fight in the best sense of the word.
"It is hard to get things right after only a week together, but I sensed
there was a fantastic spirit in the camp and that showed in the match.
"For us the most important thing was to give the players the confidence to
try things and they did that from the beginning. We had a bit of luck, I
admit, but fortune favours the brave.
"Our defence was superb. We imposed our tempo on Scotland, which is no mean
feat, and there were hardly any turnovers against us."
Lievremont's decision to turn to a new generation of new stars was largely
vindicated, with 21-year-old flyhalf Francois Trinh-Duc notably producing an
assured, albeit unspectacular, display before being replaced on the hour mark.
With Murrayfield spared the high winds and snow that had been feared,
conditions were almost perfect for Trinh-Duc to provide the French backline
with opportunities to display their talents.
The experienced Vincent Clerc, who went over twice, and fellow wing Julien
Malzieu, who marked his debut with a try, duly obliged.
The net result was some agonised soul-searching in the Scots' camp.
"We have let our fans down," said head coach Frank Hadden. "Once again,
we've made the sort of elementary errors that bedevilled us at the critical
stage during the World Cup.
"As soon as we got into their 22, we were like rabbits caught in the
"That was extremely disappointing - but let's not take anything away from
the quality of France's performance. They played with tremendous pace and I
thought their defence was outstanding.
"We created a few chances but they shut the door very quickly. If we got
past their front line they scrambled very well to keep us out."
Hadden now faces a difficult selection dilemma for Saturday's trip to Wales
after leaving world rugby's most reliable goalkicker, Chris Paterson, on the
bench until this game was effectively lost.
That decision meant Hadden was effectively gambling on the performance of
flyhalf Dan Parks.
The Australian-born number ten's failure to vincidate that judgement was
conspicuous. After failing to convert one straightforward penalty when
Scotland were still in the game, Parks then gifted Malzieux France's second
try with a sliced attempt at a clearance.
France's opening score had come through a delightful piece of
counter-attacking Clerc cutting in from the right wing and looping round the
back of fullback Cedric Heymans before touching down to the right of the posts.
Clerc also applied the killer blow with a quarter of an hour left,
threading a grubber kick down the right touchline before charging through to
collect it, a couple of freakishly fortunate bounces leaving him with a clear
run to the posts.