France defence coach Shaun Edwards hailed Gaël Fickou as “world-class” after a match-winning contribution from the centre in France’s thrilling 32-21 win over Scotland in Paris.
Fickou was tireless in defence on an afternoon when France were often on the backfoot, making 15 successful tackles, a tally only topped by forwards Charles Ollivon and Thibaud Flament.
When France did get on the ball, Fickou was a constant threat, breaking three tackles while making 55 metres from his eight carries.
The 28-year-old is the most capped player in the French side and on a day where their brilliant home record was seriously under threat, he delivered a classy and authoritative performance.
Speaking post-match Edwards said: “Gaël Fickou is a world-class player, he’s in really hot form at the moment, and he’s one of the best centres in the world.”
France led 19-0 in a first half which saw both sides reduced to 14 men. Grant Gilchrist and Mohamed Haouas were both shown the red card inside the opening 12 minutes in a chaotic start to proceedings at Stade de France.
Scotland’s fightback started prior to the break through Huw Jones and continued into the second period with Finn Russell dotting down after Jones had added his second.
Le Bleus led by just four points entering the closing stages, but after a brilliant and disciplined defensive effort, Fickou powered his way over, adding a bonus point for France while taking one away from Scotland.
After a difficult defeat at Aviva Stadium in Round 2, Edwards was delighted to see his side bounce back quickly.
“They dominated territory and possession, seemed to be attacking in our 22 for a lot of the game but that’s what you expect from a top-class team,” said Edwards.
“We were very, very happy to pull away, get the bonus point and better for us, Scotland didn’t get a bonus point.
“Playing against 14 at first is an advantage. It was quickly levelled up. It didn’t really affect both teams’ game plans that much.
“Our kicking game was a big improvement from last week, when we played seven-a-side rugby in our own half. We were a lot more disciplined in our kicking game and that definitely helped us.”
Courtesy of Fickou’s score, France claimed all five points on offer and will head to Twickenham in Round 4 still in the hunt for a second consecutive Championship, hoping for a slip-up from leaders Ireland.
“We’ll have a beer, because it’s been a tough couple of weeks,” said Edwards.
“Losing was an unusual thing to feel and not a very pleasant one, but then we’ll be planning for Twickenham. We’ve not won there since 2005 in the Six Nations, so that’s a big challenge for us.”