France’s victory over England will live long in the memory as they rewrote the record books and wowed the Twickenham crowd.
You have to go back 18 years for the last French Championship win at the ground, but Saturday’s display in Round 4 of the Guinness Six Nations catapulted itself right up the list of their greatest performances of all time.
The only comparable showing at Twickenham was the 1999 World Cup semi-final against New Zealand, a match that many consider France’s greatest-ever performance.
For pure dominance, there was another display in London, the 51-0 win over Wales at Wembley in 1998 to seal back-to-back Grand Slams, that comes close.
However, if we restrict ourselves purely to the last 23 years since Italy joined the Championship, then there is a strong case that this was the greatest-ever Guinness Six Nations performance from Les Bleus.
We have put together a list of the top five:
5. 2007: France 46-19 Scotland
Just as will be the case this year, the 2007 Championship came down to a battle between Ireland and France. Mathematically, England were still in contention but by the time they kicked off, they needed a 57-point win in Cardiff.
Ireland’s 51-24 win in Rome left France needing a 24-point win over Scotland to claim the title and they were dealt an early blow when Nikki Walker climbed highest to claim Dan Parks’ cross-kick for a try after seven minutes.
France responded with tries from Imanol Harinordoquy and Yannick Jauzion, the latter after a stunning break by Pierre Mignoni.
But Sean Lamont’s try from a quick tap made it 20-14 at the break, with Ireland edging closer to the title.
France then cut loose after the break, David Marty, Cédric Heymans and Olivier Milloud all crossing in ten second-half minutes to put France 25 points up at 39-14. Scotland battled back, Euan Murray’s try four minutes from time seemingly sending the trophy Ireland’s way, only for Elvis Vermeulen to get over with the clock in the red for the Championship-winning try.
4. 2022: France 30-24 Ireland
Nowhere near as one-sided a scoreline as some of the results on this list, but last year’s battle between France and Ireland was billed as a Championship decider, with both fresh from record wins over New Zealand the previous November.
France broke the deadlock barely a minute in through skipper Antoine Dupont and dominated the first half to lead 19-7 at the break.
Three more points from Melvyn Jaminet early in the second half made it 22-7 before Ireland struck back with two scores in quick succession from Josh van der Flier and Jamison Gibson-Park.
France did not flinch though and came straight back through Cyril Baille to lead 27-21.
While Ireland cut the deficit to three points, France almost sealed it with a try from Jaminet. After he was deemed to be held up, the full-back slotted a penalty to wrap up a high-class win against an Ireland team who have lost just once since that encounter.
3. 2020: France 24-17 England
Fresh from reaching the World Cup final with the youngest-ever team to appear on that stage, England looked like a juggernaut entering the 2020 Guinness Six Nations.
Few expected France, under new head coach Fabien Galthié, to be able to cope with them at the Stade de France, but Les Bleus served notice of what was to follow in this renaissance.
As has been customary with this France team, they struck early, Vincent Rattez racing over after just five minutes. New skipper Charles Ollivon then made the most of confusion after box-kick from Antoine Dupont was not collected cleanly to push the score to 17-0 after 20 minutes.
The flanker was at it again after half-time, on the shoulder of Dupont after a mazy run from the scrum-half behind slow ball from a lineout and France were in dreamland at 24-0.
From there, England fought back with two Jonny May solo efforts, and a last-gasp penalty to earn a losing bonus point was the sour note for France as that proved the difference between winning and losing the title come Super Saturday. On the subject of Super Saturday’s, France’s 35-27 win over Ireland in Round 5 is another that could have featured on this list.
2. 2002: France 44-5 Ireland
France welcomed Ireland to Paris in 2002 searching for the Grand Slam, while knowing that defeat would likely see them surrender the title to England.
It became clear quite quickly that there would be no fall at the final hurdle, as Les Bleus, captained by Fabien Galthié, romped to a massive victory in the Paris sunshine.
Serge Betsen got the ball rolling after just two minutes and while Ireland hit back through Keith Wood, those were their only points of the match.
Two Gérald Merceron penalties pushed the lead to 13-5 before Nicolas Brusque and Aurélien Rougerie crossed twice in the space of five minutes to make it a 20-point lead with half an hour gone.
France kept the scoreboard ticking over with Merceron slotting two more penalties, before Betsen’s second made it 36-5 before the hour.
François Gelez added a penalty before Brusque’s second sealed a magnificent victory and France celebrated the first Grand Slam of the Six Nations era.
1. 2023: England 10-53 France
The only drawback of France’s victory on Saturday is that it may well not come in a year in which they win the Championship, but after 18 years of waiting to beat England at Twickenham, they will probably take it!
Thomas Ramos finished off a brilliant counter-attacking try for the opener, before Thibaud Flament crossed after Antoine Dupont’s 50:22.
As in 2020, France led 17-0, and Charles Ollivon’s secore on the stroke of half-time made it a convincing 27-3 scoreline.
While Freddie Steward’s try gave England the first points of the second half, there was no let-up from France as Flament and then Ollivon each crossed for their second of the afternoon.
The best was still to come though, Damian Penaud sprinting home from Gaël Fickou’s cross-kick before finishing a stunning first-phase try to bring up 50, handing England their heaviest-ever Twickenham loss.