Wednesday 24 January 2018

Peter Bills: French grind out Slam success

France 12
England 10

Alexis Palisson holds the trophy after winning the Grand Slam. Photo: Getty Images
Alexis Palisson holds the trophy after winning the Grand Slam. Photo: Getty Images

Peter Bills in Paris

Close your eyes in the final 20 minutes at an increasingly tense Stade de France on Saturday night and it was possible to see two great rugby nations metamorphosing into each other.

A Grand Slam was at stake and one country had become fraught, hidebound with tension and caution. They kept the play tight, the ball close and kicked. Few chances were taken. Classic English characteristics, of course ... yet adopted by the French.

Against them lay a team with a dire Six Nations behind them. By tradition, England have always shunned the spectacular in favour of the pragmatic and mundane. They liked to build their game primarily around their forwards and play what little rugby they can within that unit. The notion of all-out attack was anathema.

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