Johnson on Red Alert after Bolt from Les Bleus; France F Ire Warning to English Hopes with Dazzling Display in Paris

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), February 6, 2011 | Go to article overview

Johnson on Red Alert after Bolt from Les Bleus; France F Ire Warning to English Hopes with Dazzling Display in Paris


Byline: From Ian Stafford AT THE STADE DE FRANCE, PARIS

FRANCE 34

SCOTLAND 21

FRANCE served notice on England that, if they have designs on winning a first Six Nations title -- let alone a Grand Slam since 2003 -- then they will need to get past a resurgent French team who put recent horrors aside to beat a spirited Scotland with a fine display of running rugby.

England may take note of the threat the all-singing and dancing French backs will pose when they come to Twickenham on February 26, but they will also have noted a leaky defence that was broken three times.

Scotland knew France would hit them hard early on after the humiliation Les Bleus endured in their previous home Test against Australia last November, a 59-16 pasting at Stade de France -- but they did not expect to be behind to a try inside the first two minutes.

This is exactly what happened after a bruising hit on Nick de Luca by Francois Trinh Duc forced him to lose the ball and then Thierry Dusautoir collected. The French captain passed to Aurelien Rougerie and, when the centre kicked on, Maxime Medard won the chase to touch down in the corner. Morgan Parra converted.

And France were soon 10 points to the good when Parra struck a penalty.

To Scotland's credit, within nine minutes they had clawed the deficit back to just three points.

Andy Robinson's men came to Paris sitting on an unenviable record of two wins in the French capital since 1969, the last being in 1999. But they also began last night's match on the back of five wins in their previous six Tests, including wins away in Argentina, twice, and Ireland, as well as a home win in the autumn against South Africa.

Captain Alastair Kellock burrowed through the French hooker William Servat to score a try close enough to the posts for Dan Parks to convert.

But back came France, reminding us more of the team that became deserved Grand Slam champions last March than the shambles booed off the Stade de France in November. Their pack camped on Scotland's line just prior to the half-hour mark and a series of scrums followed. Each time, the big Scottish forwards selected to meet their counterparts head on, buckled. After the fourth, Wayne Barnes warned the visitors of the consequences if it should happen again. …

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