On This Day: France too strong for England in 2006

Back in 2006 England were going through something of a rough patch while France aimed for a third title in five years.

Back in 2006 England were going through something of a rough patch while France aimed for a third title in five years.

Les Bleus had been stunned in their opening encounter by Scotland but had bounced back thereafter, while England were also still in title contention heading to Paris.

In the end it was France who proved too strong for their visitors, eventually claiming a record victory over England.   SETTING THE SCENE   Sean Lamont’s double had handed France their first loss to Scotland since Italy’s arrival in the Championship, while England had also won two out of three with their sole defeat in Edinburgh.

That meant that heading into the game, the two sides were level at the top of the table, along with Ireland and Scotland.

France had made two changes from the team that beat Italy the previous week, with Dimitri Yachvili coming in for Jean-Baptiste Elissalde and Sylvain Marconnet replacing Olivier Milloud.

Andy Robinson had also switched two players, Matt Dawson coming in at scrum-half and Matt Stevens starting at loosehead prop in place of Andrew Sheridan.   HOW THE ACTION UNFOLDED   France made a dream start when England failed to deal with a high ball and Damien Traille pounced before feeding Florian Fritz for his first Test try after just one minute.

Yachvili converted and then added two penalties as Les Bleus opened up a 13-0 lead.

England hit back with a penalty from Charlie Hodgson, but Yachvili had the final say in the first half, with France 16-3 up.

Replacement Andy Goode then came on and slotted a second English penalty to cut the deficit back to ten points.

However the game was effectively sealed 13 minutes from time when Traille burst through, then put in a grubber that eluded everyone, allowing the centre to scoop up and score.

And just to rub salt into the wounds, Christophe Dominici picked off a late pass from Goode to run in a third French try and wrap up the win.   WHAT THEY SAID   Reflecting on the game, France flanker Yannick Nyanga told Rugbyrama: “After a successful Autumn International series we started the Championship as favourites but we lost in Scotland in what was meant to be our easiest game.

“After that we beat Ireland, scoring 40 points and beat Italy, but it was a test against a good English team. There was always a rivalry but there it was exacerbated. It was Bernard Laporte’s France team that was still affected by its 2003 World Cup semi-final defeat and we were preparing for 2007.

“We were ready, our defence was in position. Against Ireland we had scored two or three tries from turnovers. There we were able to do the same defensively but held onto the ball.

“I remember one moment from that Crunch. After a lineout we attacked through the middle and after one phases I did a sidestep and went clean through, which doesn’t happen often against England. That day everything worked for us, we were in-form, ready mentally and the team was well-balanced with experience and youth.”   WHAT HAPPENED NEXT   France went into the final weekend level with Ireland at the top of the table but with a superior points difference.

Heading to Wales, France had an advantage of 28 points over the Irish, so a win would all but seal the title. They were made to work all the way but a try from Fritz in the final minute secured a 21-16 success.

Ireland therefore needed to beat England 33 points and while they could not manage that, they did earn a 28-24 win at Twickenham to take the Triple Crown.