The Story So Far: France

Every NatWest 6 Nations is a step into the unknown, but for France in 2018, that was truer than ever.

Every NatWest 6 Nations is a step into the unknown, but for France in 2018, that was truer than ever.

With a new head coach in Jacques Brunel, and a number of new faces introduced, Les Bleus were entering a bold new era going into the Championship.

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They almost got off to the perfect start at home to Ireland, only to be denied by Jonathan Sexton’s dramatic drop goal, before their indiscipline in Edinburgh cost them against Scotland.

However, they got back to winning ways against Italy in Round Three and will be looking to add to that win against England this weekend.

We have taken a look at their campaign to date:   ROUND ONE: HEARTBREAK AGAINST IRELAND

France handed teenage fly-half Matthieu Jalibert his debut at just 19 in the first game of the Championship, only for the youngster to be forced off in the first half of that encounter.

Up against an Ireland team in excellent form, including an unbeaten November, France trailed for much of the game, but stayed in touch thanks to some excellent defence and the kicking of Maxime Machenaud.

Skipper Guilhem Guirado was a particular standout, making 31 tackles – a Championship record – as Les Bleus nullified the Irish attack.

Still, they trailed 12-6 heading into the final ten minutes when Teddy Thomas made an impact.

Anthony Belleau played a quick lineout to half-back partner Antoine Dupont. The young scrum-half then found Thomas who showed exceptional pace to race in from halfway for one of the tries of the Championship. Belleau’s conversion made it 13-12.

He missed another penalty attempt, and that would prove costly, with Sexton slotting a long-range drop goal after 41 phases to win the game for the Irish with the final kick of the game.   ROUND TWO: LETTING SCOTTISH LEAD SLIP   After the frustrations of losing to Ireland, Jacques Brunel made some notable changes against Scotland, the majority injury-enforced.

Lionel Beauxis was recalled for the first time in six years and came straight into the starting lineup, while Marco Tauleigne and Geoffrey Doumayrou made their first Championship starts.

The game started well for Les Bleus, with Thomas scoring two fine individual tries, and they led 20-14 at half-time.

Indiscipline cost them in the second half though, as Greig Laidlaw kicked six penalties to help the Scots to a 32-26 victory.

That left France with two losing bonus points from their first two games as they prepared for an historic clash with Italy in Round Three.   ROUND THREE: CONQUERING THE ITALIANS

A new-look France team headed to Marseille for a first-ever home clash in the Championship outside Paris as Les Bleus took on Latin rivals Italy.

Brunel made five changes to his starting XV, including a recall for centre Mathieu Bastareaud for the clash at the Orange Stade Vélodrome in Marseille.

He also brought in a new back three of Hugo Bonneval, Rémy Grosso and Benjamin Fall, with the former pair playing a key part in France’s crucial second try.

Paul Gabrillagues, on his first start for France, had got France off to a perfect start, and despite conceding a penalty try soon after, they led 11-7 at the break.

A tense start to the second half revealed some French nerves, but after a great Bastareaud offload, Grosso and Bonneval combined with the latter crossing.

Bastareaud then scored the third try himself, and while they could not manage a bonus point, they ran out 34-17 victors.

That left them on six points from three games, level with fourth-placed Wales, although behind on points difference.

Next up is a clash with defending champions England, as Les Bleus seek a first win in Le Crunch since 2015.

Brunel will be able to call on the same players that beat Italy, having named an unchanged 31-man squad for the game in Paris.