Canada 18 – 41 France
Fair do’s to Canada, they made the French work for their win.
But the French didn’t help themselves with a game plan that was too ambitious too early. You have to earn the right to attack, and the French forwards did not set the platform. The scrums were a mess, with penalties going randomly between the teams, and the French lineout drives were too predictable and defusable.
One of the big developments for the minor teams in this Cup is their relish for tackling. They love the contact, they seek it out, whereas in previous years the major teams could punch through with impunity. The Canadians exemplified that change all night long, and the French played to it with direct running rather than deception creating gaps.
Michalak, the French first-five, showed some lovely touches taking it to the line, but those outside him looked lethargic by comparison. If France is going to go further, they’ll need their backs to run with flair and conviction.
The score blew out in the final fifteen minutes as the Canadians tired just enough, but there was a moment in the second half where the Canucks were within striking distance. Perhaps French coach Philippe St Andre will take comfort and see resilience in going past that: but against Ireland in their final pool match, they’ll need a much smarter plan and execution.