France captain Nolann Le Garrec said the team’s desire to give back to a string of departing players fuelled their Round 5 34-28 win over Ireland, that secured them second place in the 2021 Six Nations Under-20s.
2019 champions Ireland had started the day as the only side who could mathematically topple eventual winners England at the top of the ranks, and Jamie Osborne’s try put France on the back foot early on.
Alex Kendellen also went over for the men in green in a try-filled first half, but scores from Thibault Debaes, Pierre Bochaton and Paul Mallez earned Les Bleuets a slender lead at the break.
Though Kendellen notched a second at the death Louis Bielle-Biarrey’s cleverly-worked try proved enough for France, helping them leapfrog their opponents in the standings.
Scrum-half Le Garrec said: “We’re really proud of our performance against Ireland – it’s great to finish on a high and give a good impression of ourselves.
“There are a lot of important players who will be leaving us after a number of years – the likes of Matthias [Haddad] and Paul [Mallez] – and we wanted to give back to them on the pitch.
“We have lots of good players. In some matches we struggled with our structure and getting out of our half, but with the ball we are capable of creating things. I love our style of play.”
After an opening round defeat to England three-time winners France swept aside Italy, Wales, Scotland and Ireland in successive matches, and Le Garrec’s half-back partner Debaes agreed there were plenty of positives to take from the campaign.
Debaes, 19, picked up the Player of the Match plaudits against Ireland, having controlled the second half with a scintillating kicking display while also contributing a try.
He added: “Unfortunately the second half against England lost us the Championship, but we learnt a lot throughout the series. We were put under pressure by every team, but we learned to manage games and the end of matches.
“The level was high in every match and we are very happy to finish the Championship in second place.”