in Wales, the XV of France snatches the right to dream of the grand slam

In Wales, nothing was easy for Antoine Dupont and the Blues, but the XV of France claimed the right to play in a final for the Grand Slam.

They moved, shivered and sweated again. Before breathing, again and again, and exulting, in the Cardiff night. Winner of a padlocked game, Friday March 11, in Wales (13-9) – its fourth victory in a row in the Six Nations Tournament – ​​the XV of France opens the doors to a grand slam which will fled since 2010. A victory, Saturday March 19 (9 p.m.), against England would ensure the coronation of Fabien Galthié’s men.

But this part “our toughest match of the Tournament, by its progress”, according to second-line Paul Willemse, was nothing like the Blues’ previous outings. In the light suit that enveloped them since the start of the competition, the Tricolores preferred the blue of heating. “It wasn’t the best match we’ve played, recognized the captain, Antoine Dupont. But you have to know how to win like that too. » A Welsh victory, “a pragmatic team that scores points with crumbs”.

Under the finally clement sky of Cardiff – the promised rain stopped at the beginning of the evening -, the Blues hardly granted crumbs to the always defending champions, revengeful and usually imperial at home.

Two years ago, their poaching in Welsh lands (27-23 victory) was an epiphany. “This victory gave a boost to the construction of our project”, insisted this week Laurent Labit, the coach of the tricolor attack. The Blues had left the Welsh capital convinced that they could beat any opponent, at the end of a disputed meeting at ground level. A pleasant preamble to the “chess game” – the words of opener Romain Ntamack – who expected the French on Friday.

As usual, since the fall of 2021 and their benchmark victory against the All Blacks (40-25), the Blues got off to a flying start. Aggressive, but within the rules, and inspired, full-back Melvyn Jaminet’s team-mates quickly took the lead, rewarded with a try from third row Anthony Jelonch. “But we had a hard time following up afterwards”, conceded Antoine Dupont. A flash, then pain.

A “better prepared” campaign

“We spent most of the time in our camp having to defend. It means we had to tackle more than usual, and it’s hard, noted Paul Willemse. But luckily, I love it! » In an incessant fight punctuated by wild impacts and the meticulous paws of opener Dan Biggar – a revisited candlelit dinner, for the French rearguard –, the Blues have never been disunited (as evidenced by their 93% successful tackles).

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