Analysis: A young trio revitalise France

Three players came into the French backline against Scotland charged with turning things around for Les Bleus.

Three players came into the French backline against Scotland charged with turning things around for Les Bleus.

Between Antoine Dupont, Romain Ntamack and Thomas Ramos there were just 11 France caps and three starts, as well as an average age of 21.3.

The trio have shone for Toulouse this season, in different circumstances, but they came together and made a huge impact for France in the 27-10 win at the Stade de France.


Having decided to start all three, Jacques Brunel will have been delighted at the way they combined for the first French try after just 13 minutes.

It came from a long kick by Peter Horne, which Ramos collected in his own 22. As he has for much of this season, the 23-year-old ran the ball back, gliding past a pair of defenders before feeding Damian Penaud – another of France’s younger generation.

The winger raced further clear before finding Dupont inside him. The scrum-half has a fine strike rate at club level and looked set for his first Test try as he raced forwards, only for Nick Grigg to make a crucial covering tackle.

However Ramos had been following up in support and was able to quickly feed the ball onto Ntamack, who scooted over for his first Test try.

That was far from the only time the trio combined, but it was unquestionably the most eye-catching.


What was noticeable from the half-backs in particular, was how they performed in a slightly different manner to when they play with Toulouse.

For Dupont, that was in playing a slightly more conservative game, kicking a little more frequently and getting those around him into the action. He has always been a constant threat in and around the fringes, and still showed his ability to wriggle out of tackles as well as run great support lines. But it was his ability to show that he can play a different game plan that really caught the eye.

Meanwhile, Ntamack returned to the position where he has played for much of his young career, starting at fly-half. Now used more often in the centres with Toulouse, where he played for France’s World Cup-winning Under-20s last year, there were concerns about how he might perform with the added responsibility that comes with the No.10 jersey.

An early try will have settled the nerves, but what was most noticeable about Ntamack was the way he resisted the temptation to do too much, instead pulling the strings and feeding those around him.

It is also worth pointing out how much work he got through on the defensive side. He made 20 tackles and missed none, a remarkable stat for a fly-half, particularly one in only his second Test start.


While all three youngsters performed well, they were not perfect and each will look to improve for Round Four.

Most obviously, that will be for Ramos from the kicking tee. On his first game for Les Bleus with kicking duties, he started well before missing one relatively kickable penalty, and then hitting the post with a second-half conversion.

Against Ireland, France will not be able to squander points with their goal-kicking, which has been a problem all Championship.

Similarly, the four disallowed tries were an indication of a lack of accuracy at times. Dupont was responsible for one of those, with a little fumble before putting Penaud over for what would have been the first try.

Dupont, in particular, is a player who opposition teams have to factor in at all moments. You can be sure that Joe Schmidt will do just that.

The challenge for the scrum-half, and his two young colleagues, will be to cope with that extra attention and still make a difference for their side.