#RWC2015: ‘Too little too late’ for fading France
Did France get what they deserved in a 62-13 humiliation by New Zealand in the quarterfinals on Saturday?
CARDIFF - For once, France passed the ball around and played positive rugby, but they got what they deserved in a 62-13 humiliation by New Zealand in the World Cup quarter-finals on Saturday.
Les Bleus never looked like repeating the famous upsets of the All Blacks in the 2007 last-eight game in Cardiff, or the 1999 semi-final.
For all their positive intent, they lacked the quality to challenge a team who cruised through the pool phase and they lost to New Zealand for a record ninth consecutive time.
Under head coach Philippe Saint Andre, who will make way for the former Toulouse coach Guy Noves, France always played conservatively, but on Saturday they decided to be bold.
"I believe that rugby is a game," Saint Andre told a news conference, although he spent most of his time insisting rugby was a physical affair above all.
"We tried to put rhythm into the game but we had too many turnovers and they were more reactive, they were faster."
France missed several tackles in the opening 20 minutes and just as in their 24-9 pool defeat by Ireland, they were dominated at the breakdown, giving the ball away on too many occasions.
The All Blacks ran riot with nine tries, the first coming after 11 minutes when Brodie Retallick touched down after a kick by Frederic Michalak, who got injured in the process, was charged down.
Losing Michalak so early was big setback for France, who were completely overpowered by the defending champions.
Saint Andre's side showed good intention with fullback Scott Spedding often running with the ball instead of kicking it away and they were rewarded before the break when the powerful Louis Picamoles pierced the defence to score the only French try.
But Picamoles was sin-binned for punching Richie McCaw in the 47th minute and that was when France totally cracked, not scoring a point in the second half and conceding 33 as New Zealand fell just short of their record winning margin against their opponents after winning a home test 61-10 in 2007.
France had never before conceded 62 points in a test match.
"I assume a lot of responsibility, there is no problem about that, its part of the job," said Saint-Andre, whose successor had been named before the World Cup.
"I took a lot of punches during four years. We were hoping that three months of preparations would help us reach another dimension."
The result was more painful for Les Bleus, who went through the pool phase without showing many attacking skills. They realised only before the game against New Zealand that attack is the DNA of French rugby but it was way too late.
"Let's face it, we've been between the fifth and eighth place in the world for three years now," Saint Andre said.
"We're in our place," he added.
"New Zealand had more flair and more skill," a painful admission that flowing and inventive French rugby is a thing of the past. Visit the Eyewitness News special Rugby World Cup 2015 portal.
Visit the Eyewitness News special Rugby World Cup 2015 portal.