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Galthie gets French dreaming again

France 24 England 17

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France winger Vincent Rattez celebrates after scoring his side’s first try. Photo: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

France winger Vincent Rattez celebrates after scoring his side’s first try. Photo: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Getty Images

France winger Vincent Rattez celebrates after scoring his side’s first try. Photo: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

They came to the bleak surrounds of northern Paris in the hope of having a love affair rekindled. The seduction process did not take long.

It was amour fou, unbridled passion, as the Stade de France faithful, neglected and forlorn, fell head-over-heels for the new-look, upbeat team of, yes, Fabien Galthie, but also of a son of Wigan, Shaun Edwards, the coach that England forgot.

Edwards may only have a few words of French at his grasp, but this team is already speaking his language, that of heart and soul to go with the muscle and bone.

There is no need for an interpreter to translate desire and defiance. Edwards is fluent in body language. This was the French Resistance with studs on. How wise of the French federation to snare his signature right through to the 2023 Rugby World Cup. England's loss is France's gain.

The long-suffering French supporters can all dream again, all believe again. Les Bleus flirted and fluttered, caressing the ball, striding long and purposefully, making things happen with belief and conviction as if the last miserable decade had never happened.

A blistering Teddy Thomas break, a neatly-slipped inside pass from Romain Ntamack and there was Vincent Rattez over the try line. Seven minutes was all it had taken to erase the memories of those wilderness years. It is a marriage made in heaven, celestial rugby played as only the French can, with elegant as well as power.

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France's Antoine Dupont in action. Photo: Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters

France's Antoine Dupont in action. Photo: Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters

REUTERS

The rain teemed from Parisian skies but it could do nothing to dampen the mood. La Marseillaise can stir the soul with its message of warrior spirit and togetherness. It was wholly in keeping with the mood of the moment.

Farewell to the ancien régime. France are on the rise.

Antoine Dupont, so eager and alert, forever probing, is a crackerjack scrum-half in the grand tradition, sparking so much, a burgeoning star. Dupont versus Ben Youngs was no contest.

Captain Charles Ollivon, scoring two tries, plays with the noble stolidity of his Basque countrymen, selfless and devoted, while the man alongside him, No 8 Gregory Alldritt, was a colossus, his lime-streaked head-guard a constant focal point where bodies clashed.

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England's Elliot Daly in action with France's Anthony Bouthier as Teddy Thomas looks on. Photo: Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters

England's Elliot Daly in action with France's Anthony Bouthier as Teddy Thomas looks on. Photo: Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters

REUTERS

There was a wobble, though, as Jonny May's individual two-try salvo briefly sent tremors through a crowd who were, understandably enough when leading 24-0, in the throes of premature celebration. Was it to be deja vu all over again?

France blew a 16-point half-time lead against Wales exactly a year ago. But those fault lines have been fixed, although Edwards will not have been happy with the way May plucked those scores from nowhere with his weaving pace.

Some more hard labour awaits Edward's French charges. The job is far from done.

This was only France's third victory in 10 years in Le Crunch, a fixture that was once the jewel in the championship calendar but which had lost its lustre. Yet such has been the feel-good vibe engendered by Galthie and Rafael Ibanez, that there was a palpable yearning up in the stands for everything to come together.

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France head coach Fabien Galthie. Photo: David Davies/PA Wire

France head coach Fabien Galthie. Photo: David Davies/PA Wire

PA

As the Can-Can tunes blared out from the bands, so the Can Do boys in blue set about their business on the field. Alldritt was the rallying point in defence, aided by muscular wing men such as lock Bernard Le Roux. Defence captain, centre Gael Fickou, lived up to his billing, taking on the responsibility with relish.

There is growth to be had in this French team.

"This is just the start," Ibanez said. And so it is, a heartening, heartfelt new beginning.

(© Daily Telegraph, London)

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