Analysis: France learn to thrive in adversity

When you play for France and suffer a heavy defeat at the hands of your biggest rivals England, you can be sure that there will be criticism that follows.

When you play for France and suffer a heavy defeat at the hands of your biggest rivals England, you can be sure that there will be criticism that follows.

The 44-8 loss at Twickenham in Round Two of the Guinness Six Nations sparked just such an outcry, but Les Bleus responded in the best possible fashion against Scotland.

A reshuffled team ran out 27-10 winners, new faces Antoine Dupont, Romain Ntamack and Thomas Ramos played a major part, and there were smiles back on the faces of supporters.

For backs coach Jean-Baptiste Elissalde the game was proof that this team can thrive in adversity.

He explained: “You either take it and mope around, or you put your shoulders back and get up. It’s a big challenge but that’s good.

“This idea of a squad has been a foundation for something. Go on, hammer us, it makes us stronger. I’m convinced that we can use the fire that is burning in our stomachs. That’s my feeling. We are building this team in difficult circumstances.”

Ntamack opened the scoring in Paris, while replacement back row Grégory Alldritt grabbed a late double – both players made their Test bows in this year’s Championship.

Jacques Brunel had named a France team with eight players under the age of 25 which is not even to mention Alldritt.

In Ntamack and Demba Bamba they have two of last year’s World Under-20 champions, while Ramos also got his first Test opportunity this Championship.

The likes of Arthur Iturria, Félix Lambey and Damian Penaud have all shown flashes, and it is worth remembering that even Gaël Fickou is still only 24, even if it feels like he is a veteran of the Test arena – mainly because he made his Test bow six years ago.

That is not to say this team will be in place for the next five years, there are plenty of others who will come into contention in the short and long-term, including Matthieu Jalibert, who made his return from injury last weekend more than a year on from his Test debut in the Championship opener against Ireland.

What is clear though, is that this coaching staff are prepared to put their faith in youth, and that faith was rewarded in Round Three.

The immediate response from the players following the victory was not one of triumphalism. A win was necessary, but it does not wipe away the memory of the loss in England and the way defeat was snatched from the draws of victory against Wales.

It does however, relieve some of the pressure on the players, with a two-week break ahead of the trip to Ireland.

Those who were not involved in the matchday 23 against Scotland will return to their clubs for game time, as they try to force their way back into contention.

What has also been made clear though, is that it will take an improved performance at the Aviva Stadium for Les Bleus to have a chance of successive victories.

Elissalde admitted: “I don’t like talking about tests, but when I look at the Wales-England game, we’re not at that level yet, we can’t hide from that. I hope the players will enjoy a good week and won’t just go home and sit on the couch.”