Sunday 20 October 2019

France do enough but Ireland won't be quaking in their boots

France 38 Romania 11

France's centre Gael Fickou scores his team's fifth try (Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images)
France's centre Gael Fickou scores his team's fifth try (Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images)
Valentin Ursache (blocked) of Romania goes over to score his team's try (Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Florin Vlaicu of Romania takes on the France defence (Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Joe Schmidt could sleep soundly last night after tuning into this one, knowing that Sunday will be negotiable and that, more importantly, France look as dishevelled as ever.

They will undoubtedly be more tuned in on October 11 when Pool D reaches its climax, but there is so much to improve on, you wonder if it's possible.

Romania are top of Ireland's agenda this week and, while their scrum was excellent and caused France no end of bother, they offered little else and their props are unlikely to be pressed into action again so soon.

Their lineout was shaky and their kicking game poor. They won the breakdown battle but lacked the nous to exploit their possession and, if Ireland come close to hitting their stride on Sunday, they'll have no problems.

Awful

For a team packed with so much talent, France were awful at times. Having bullied Italy into submission on Sunday, the re-jigged line-up were offered a chance to play their way into the team and nobody took it.

Their back three bristled with pace and intent, but they only really saw the ball when the Romanians kicked loosely.

Their front-row was destroyed by the French-based Oaks trio - Mihaita Lazar did untold damage to giant tighthead Uini Atonio.

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At the ruck, the Romanians didn't protect their ball, while their basic skills let them down time and time again.

The sight of Philippe Saint-Andre berating his players at half-time would have gone down well up the road at St George's Park and the fact that it took 26 minutes for them to add to their lead told its own story.

France had found themselves 17-6 ahead at the break and must not have been quite sure how they got there.

Their interest in rucking was minimal and they were being dominated at the scrum, but when the opportunity presented itself Les Bleus' better quality of player told and they found a way over the line.

Their back three looked dangerous, but they couldn't quite figure out a way of getting them into the game.

Luckily for them, the Romanians obliged with their poor kicking game that invited Brice Dulin, Sofiane Guitoune and Noa Nakaitaci into the game.

They were poor for much of the first half and got a scare when Romanian centre Florin Viaicu couldn't ground the ball and, although he cancelled out Morgan Parra's penalty, he missed a chance to put them ahead minutes later with a dreadful kick.

Although France were guilty of ill-discipline, it was Romania who were reduced to 14 men when prop Paulica Ion hauled down a maul and in the three minutes after he got his marching orders they pulled away.

They went to touch with the penalty and, although their maul didn't get them over, Parra spotted that Guitoune had only scrum-half Florin Surugiu in front of him and backed his winger, who finished.

Minutes later, a terrible kick to Dulin caused carnage in the Romanian defence as the Racing Metro speedster careered back and made huge yards, Atonio followed up with a big carry and Louis Picamoles put Yannick Nyanga over in the corner.

Like Ireland against Canada on Saturday, the French punished the lesser team when they went down a man, and when Ion returned the score was 17-6.

France improved after the break, but not by a whole pile and it was only in 66th minute, as the Romanians began to fade, that they managed their third try as a spell of possession allowed Remi Tales sweep the ball wide, where Guitone got his second try.

Wesley Fofana (pictured) followed it up with the bonus point try, but Romania got a deserved try when Valentin Ursache completed a neat maul move. Gael Fickou had the final say with a slick try that put a sheen on the scoreline but if Ireland were still tuned in, they won't have been too concerned.

FRANCE- B Dulin; S Guitoune, G Fickou, W Fofana, N Nakaitaci; R Tales, M Parra (R Kockott 69); V Debaty (E Ben Arous 71), D Szarzewski (capt ) (B Kayser 22-31, 50), U Atonio (N Mas 50); B Le Roux, A Flanquart; Y Nyanga, L Picamoles(D Chouly 50).

ROMANIA - C Fercu; M Lemnaru, P Kinikinilau, F Vlaicu, M Apostol (I Botezatu 75); D Dumbrava (C Gal 47), F Surugiu (V Calafeteanu 73); M Lazar (A Ursache 71), O Turashvili (A Radoi 59), P Ion (H Pungea 73); V Poparlan (O Tonita 72), J Van Heerden; V Ursache (H Pungea 36-40) , V Lucaci, M Macovei (capt).

Ref - J Peyper (South Africa)

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