France are building a team through their performances on the pitch according to coach Fabien Galthié, so their success against Ireland in Paris will have been a huge step forward.
The battle of the top two teams after Round 1 of the Guinness Six Nations looked to have the makings of a classic and so it turned out at the Stade de France.
Les Bleus burst out of the blocks into a 10-0 lead, and went into the break 19-7 to the good after a powerful effort from their forwards.
But Ireland fought back, with two tries in quick succession to get back to within a point only for Cyril Baille to swing momentum back France’s way.
In the end, that proved pivotal as Les Bleus ran out 30-24 winners to sit as the only remaining unbeaten side in the Championship.
And for Galthié, entering year three in charge of the team, this success was another major stepping-stone for the side.
He explained: “Of course the win will do us a lot of good and we want to enjoy it for the next two weeks before the Scotland game. The three weeks of preparation we have had so far have been solid.
“We are a team that is building on the pitch, through the performances. The players have convictions, it allows us to get through the difficult moments. In this team there is real solidarity and no player feels like they are in trouble if they make a mistake. It takes away some of the pressure.
“Against a team like Ireland, you have to accept that you will have difficult moments and that they will knock you back. We were able to regain control in difficult circumstances. Our collective experience is developing. It’s good.”
PLAY GUINNESS SIX NATIONS FANTASY RUGBY
The game had more than a whiff of déjà-vu of France’s success against the All Blacks last November – they ran out 40-25 victors that day.
Antoine Dupont’s early try gave them a dream start, and despite Mack Hansen’s fine score from a restart, France were on top in the physical battle.
But a slow start to the second half, in which Josh van der Flier and then Jamison Gibson-Park went over, saw the lead slashed to one.
Galthié was not afraid to turn to his bench, with six forwards selected to make an impact, and he was impressed at the effect they had.
He added: “We had prepared to have six forwards on the bench to pick up the baton from the starters early in the game. We have, in some ways, a second forward pack who had a good game. This strategy has paid off for the second time (after the New Zealand win).
“We were very compact in our defensive line. Antoine was doing a good job just in behind, in particular. We were generally hitting back the ball carrier. In the second half, we lost our way a bit, however. There were too many people in the rucks and we deviated from our defensive project which opened up space for them.”