With all the pressure associated with the first game of the 6 Nations, this France v Wales clash was bound to be a spectacle. France would deliver a beautiful first-half performance to build a formidable 16 point lead, then blow it all through simple errors and mind-numbing game management. This is how the French went from heroes in the first half to zeros in the second.
France v Wales | the importance of metres after contact
Making extra metres after the initial contact can make or break an attack. Let’s look at how France performed in this area before and after half time.
Before half time
In the early stages of the match, France bullied the unsuspecting Welsh defenders by chewing up metres after the initial contact. Below Atonio makes good metres and even commando crawls to go further.
France builds on this momentum further in the very next phase. After a good break, Huget takes the offload and eats up more metres after he takes a tackle.
France would score their opening try not long after this move, and it would be built through powerful leg drive and full commitment. Unfortunately, this commitment would not last into the second half.
After half time
Wales would tighten their defence later in the game and France would struggle to gain those same metres after contact. Below Picamoles (who made plenty of metres in the first half) runs into heavy traffic. France then succumb to the pressure and lose the ball.
This becomes a theme as the game progresses.
Here Marchand makes a run but Wales are now alert to the metres they have been easily conceding. They focus on the ball and force a mistake.
The Welsh certainly played their part by upping their physicality. You can read about how Wales can potentially win the 6 nations from here in the below article.
The fact remains however that France failed to stay composed. This lack of composure would now begin manifesting in their game management as well.
France v Wales | how French game management failed
With a 16 point lead, France just needed to make mostly good decisions in the second half and they would have won comfortably. Let’s look at where their game management fell apart.
Before half time
France started the game positively by trying several different kicks.
These kicks had varying levels of success but at least showed France was thinking through their approach in the first half. But when Liam Williams began running the ball back at them dangerously from these kicks, they seemed to lack a plan B in attack.
After half time
By the final 10 minutes, game management and attacking structure had completely gone out the window for France. Let’s look at the play leading up to North’s intercept try that won the game for Wales.
The first thing to note is two terrible high passes.
At this point, Vahaamahina should have just taken the ball into contact and settled the play down. But France has no real plan for this half, and he instead floats a 50/50 pass wide. North steams through for an intercept try. From a Welsh perspective at least, this is a beautiful thing to watch.
Even with their game management in tatters and a more physical Welsh defence to wrestle with, France still had a chance of holding on to their lead. This is where we have to look at the rest of the brain-fades that made this loss possible.
France v Wales | where France gifted Wales the win
As if the above intercept wasn’t enough, there were several unforgivable mistakes that sealed up the French defeat. Case number one is some disastrous ball control from Huget.
Case number two is more subtle but equally as critical. Atonio lies in the ruck for too long, leaving a small gap for Williams to exploit.
This is a harsh lesson for the big guy, but at this level every second counts.
The 1014 Rugby reviewed France v Wales in significant detail over on their YouTube channel. See the following video for more information.
Can France beat England if they play to their first-half standards for the full 80 minutes? We would love to hear your thoughts.
Author: The 1014 Rugby and Henry Stokes