A game defined by Sebastien Vahaamahina’s inexplicable elbow to Wales’ Aaron Wainwright.
In a bizarre reversal of Sam Warburton’s 2011 red card against France, it was a split-second act that will haunt Vahaamahina for the rest of his career.
France had made five changes from the side that defeated Tonga almost two weeks ago with captain Guilhem Guirado coming in for Camille Chat at hooker, second row Bernard Le Roux replaced Paul Gabrillagues who drops to the bench, nine Antoine Dupont comes in for Baptiste Serin , left-winger Yoann Huget displaces Alivereti Raka and Gael Fickou comes in at inside centre for Sofiane Guitoune; both Raka and Guitoune drop out of the 23.
Here’s how we rated the French.
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1. JEFFERSON POIROT
Brunel was one of his coaches at Bordeaux Bègles and the French national team coach clearly holds him in high regard. The co-captain gave away a neck roll penalty in the 24th minute. Sadly Inspector Poirot was unable to solve the mystery of how to win a RWC quarter-final with 14 men.
2. GUILHEM GUIRADO (CAPT.)
Rumours of mutiny to one side, Guirado spilled the ball that led to Wainwright’s opportunistic try that broke France’s early dominance. He was up for the fight and played his part in a largely dominant French forward pack.
3. RABAH SLIMANI
Started at tight-head prop in four of France’s five matches at RWC 2015. Tackled well in the loose. The master scrum technician didn’t get much beyond scrum parity against the Welsh.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 20, 2019
4. BERNARD LE ROUX
When he was called up in June, a knee injury had kept him out of international rugby for a year. A backrow playing in the engine room, Le Roux had a relatively quiet shift.
5. SEBASTIEN VAHAAMAHINA
The mammoth lock brushed aside Welsh defenders to claim France’s first try. Gave away a penalty for a high shot in front of the posts in the 19th minute, letting Wales further back into the game. Cost France a try in the 48th needlessly and got sent off for his troubles, throwing a game France deserved to win. Unforgivably stupid.
6. WENCESLAS LAURET
Got through a tonne of the less glamorous stuff, chasing balls down and antagonising the Welsh at every opportunity.
7. CHARLES OLLIVON
A huge tackle that saw him and a colleague hoist 135kg Thomas Francis into the air before dumping him backwards set the tone. Took France’s second try with immense confidence. A standout for Les Bleus.
8. GREGORY ALLDRITT
You wouldn’t know he was a reserve in the Federale 1 just two years ago. Carried powerfully, although his lack of speed and decisiveness in passing let him down more than once.
9. ANTOINE DUPONT
Completely outshone Gareth Davies, the tournament’s form nine. His box kicking was assured. This Enfant Terrible is a joy to watch and will go on to be a French great.
10. ROMAIN NTAMACK
It’s his ability to play make on the line that separates Ntamack from mere mortals. However, you need to kick your points in knock out rugby and his missed kicks at goal will have annoyed the young Toulousain. You can’t spurn six kickable points in a RWC quarter-final. Didn’t come back on in the secondhalf, a real blow for France.
11. YOANN HUGET
A quiet first half for one of rugby union’s chief pantomime villains. Intercepted the ball in the 64th minute with the Welsh threatening the line. Easily worth 2 of his 6 points alone.
12. GAEL FICKOU
Part of an early assault on Wales defense and looked sharp. The victim of a yellow card hit from Moriarty, but it didn’t slow down the Frenchman was a constant threat and was the catalyst for most of France’s most incisive attacks.
13. VIRIMI VAKATAWA
Made a blistering break for Ollivion’s try. Got into George North’s face too. Picked a beautiful line off Penaud for his try and always made metres with ball in hand and Welsh players on his back. Will have left a number of Welsh defenders with PTSD.
14. DAMIAN PENAUD
Mixed the brilliant with the bizarre. Attempted to volley the ball with the line beckoning when a retaining possession would have been preferable. Needs to temper his enthusiasm. A vast talent no doubt but he needs to grow up a bit and bin the histrionics.
15. MAXIME MEDARD
The old man of the French backs. He didn’t always win his kicking battles but he was a steady influence from fullback. Some questionable decision making when France looked to kill the game 20 minutes out.
16. CAMILLE CHAT
Mr Neck came off the bench in France’s opening round victory over Argentina, and started against USA and Tonga. Was powerful in contact, carrying with menace.
17. CYRIL BAILLE
Sits behind Poirot, one of Les Bleus’ co-captains, in the pecking order at loose-head prop. Did nothing wrong in his time on the pitch.
18. EMERICK SETIANO
Was uncapped when he was called up for France’s initial World Cup squad in June. Played his part in a short cameo.
19. PAUL GABRILLAGUES
Came on for La Roux. Didn’t do enough to rate.
20. LOUIS PICAMOLES
One of only two players in France’s squad in a third successive World Cup, alongside captain Guilhem
Guirado. One impressive carry aside, not on long enough to rate.
21. BAPTISTE SERIN
A bit of a super-sub, having made four replacement appearances at scrum-half in the 2019 Six Nations. Not on long enough to rate.
22. CAMILLE LOPEZ
Carried on Ntamack’s kick missing exploits. Other than that kept the Frenchman from self-destructing, a major task for any French 10.
23. VINCENT RATTEZ
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