The next match, in Scotland, is already shaping up to be tense. “Special envoy to Marseille” We wondered if 110 days had been enough for the Bleus to make their “mourning”, to use the term employed by coach Fabien Galthié.
The answer came. Negative.
Awkward, slow, predictable, Grégory Alldritt and his teammates were thoroughly dominated by the Irish in this clash dubbed a “blockbuster opening night” by the Anglo-Saxon press. To suffer the heaviest defeat in the history of the XV de France against Ireland, 38-17.
The hope of a Six Nations tournament completed with a Grand Slam to mitigate the disappointment of the World Cup has vanished from the start. And the upcoming days look tense, before the perilous trip to Scotland next week (Saturday at 15:15).
The French, reduced to 14 with Willemse’s expulsion, are struggling. Facing an Irish team that plays its game to perfection, the new captain Alldritt and his partners continue to take the blows without giving any in return.
Or too timidly. The Shamrock XV already leads 17-3 and the fear of a failed start to the Six Nations tournament grows.
But the strong arms up front, with the energy of despair, hit the green wall. Until Jalibert only has to serve Penaud at the level for his 36th try (two units away from Serge Blanco’s record).
10-17 at halftime, we can talk about a small miracle as the French were dominated. A semblance of hope quickly vanished.
In the 46th minute, winger Nash adds to the score (10-24). And even though Gabrillagues is credited with a try after a very long video review (17-24, 53rd), the Irish are quick to calm the spirits of the French and the Velodrome crowd, who had finally found their voice, by scoring, forcefully, a fourth try synonymous with a bonus by their hooker Sheehan (17-31, 62nd).
His replacement, Kelleher, will score a fifth one in the 77th minute to beat the record for points scored against the French: 38 against 32… last year. Not even by the absence of their master of play for so long (118 caps), the newly retired Jonathan Sexton.
No great flights but an impressive collective control for the winners of the 2023 Grand Slam. Multiplying long sequences of play, they did not take long to crack a faltering French defense.
In the 16th minute, Bundee Aki has fun in the midst of the French. Percussions, passes after contacts.
The second one opens the fatal breach. Ramos is caught, Penaud too short and the metronome Gibson-Park will touch down for the first time.
No French revolt, barely a protest for a penalty scored by Ramos (27th, 3-10) and the green giants resume their undermining work. Phase after phase, they push the French defense to its limits.
Which eventually cracks a second time. Barely half an hour has been played and Ireland leads 17-3 in a Vélodrome stadium that has lost its fervor.
A bewildered crowd, just as much as the Blues whose lost looks no longer conceal the extent of their concern. As early as the 8th minute, English referee Mr. Dickson requests video arbitration for a clearance by Paul Willemse.
On the replay, his shoulder is seen heavily hitting the head of prop Porter. Yellow card and return to the bunker, so contested during the World Cup, to inquire about a change in the color of the sanction.
The card will remain yellow. The warning will not serve as a lesson.
In the 31st minute, Doris charges, Willemse tries to stop him standing upright. His shoulder once again hits the jaw of the Irish number 8.
Second yellow card, meaning red. The XV de France will finish the match with 14 players in front of a Willemse holding his head in his hands, aware of further complicating the task of his teammates.
And this even if the remaining seven forwards draw on their pride to dominate a few scrums and other mauls.