A review of today’s game between France and Namibia in the Rugby World Cup.
France have reverted to the big guns for this match, although Aldritt had a knock to his knee in training and is replaced by Jelonch. Nutta’s prejudices aside, this is hardly a step-down in quality. Baille and Danty also return. Namibia have also made a chunk of changes (five to be precise) and are fielding a team closer to the one they fielded against Italy than France. In other news, their winger who wrecked his ankle and knee against the All Blacks last week has been given an improved prognosis after his operation and might be playing rugby again next year. Honestly, my first thought was that he’d be walking with a limp for the rest of his life, so that’s good news.
France: 15 Thomas Ramos, 14 Damian Penaud, 13 Gaël Fickou, 12 Jonathan Danty, 11 Louis Bielle-Biarrey, 10 Matthieu Jalibert, 9 Antoine Dupont (c), 8 Anthony Jelonch, 7 Charles Ollivon, 6 François Cros, 5 Thibaud Flament, 4 Cameron Woki, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Peato Mauvaka, 1 Cyril Baille Replacements: 16 Pierre Bourgarit, 17 Reda Wardi, 18 Dorian Aldegheri, 19 Romain Taofifenua, 20 Paul Boudehent, 21 Baptiste Couilloud, 22 Yoram Moefana, 23 Melvyn Jaminet
Namibia: 15 Andre van der Bergh, 14 Gerswin Mouton, 13 Johan Deysel (c), 12 Danco Burger, 11 JC Greyling, 10 Cliven Loubser, 9 Jacques Theron, 8 Prince Gaoseb, 7 Johan Retief, 6 Max Katjijeko, 5 Adriaan Ludick, 4 Mahepisa Tjeriko, 3 Johan Coetzee, 2 Louis van der Westhuizen, 1 Desiderius Sethie Replacements: 16 Obert Nortje, 17 Jason Benade, 18 Haitembu Shifuka, 19 PJ Van Lill, 20 Richard Hardwick, 21 Oela Blaauw, 22 Alcino Izaacs, 23 Divan Rossouw
The bookies are tipping France to win by 70, and I wish I could say I disagreed.
France really clicked from the start, except for a little wobble with not straight at the first lineout. But Atonio forced a penalty at the ruck, France went to the corner, Dupont kicked across to the opposite corner and Penaud opened the scoring.
Namibia kicked too long, from the scrum Jalibert kicked to the corner, Bielle-Biarrey caught it, flicked it back inside to Danty and a glorious try that will probably make the highlights real for the year. France going at over a point a minute.
Namibia had a few good minutes. Dupont charged through two tackles, offloaded to Fickou who broke through three or four more, but the move died when Danty held on. A few good kicks kept the French pinned back a bit then Jalibert to Penaud back inside to Jalibert to Olivon and a lovely try under the posts.
Moments later Namibian hands in the ruck, a kick to the corner and a nice backs move had Penaud scoring easily.
France nearly scored again, but a Namibian had caused Jalibert to knock on. This only delayed the inevitable, the French scrum demolished the Namibian one, kick to the corner and Danty crashed over from short range.
Namibia had a short period of pressure from the restart, until a pop off the ground led to a knock on. Somehow France messed up the scrum, more precisely controlling the ball at the base, and Namibia surged towards the line. Shaun Edwards coaching came out and Namibia were denied and held on.
Seconds later the French looked like they were scoring at the other end, but the TMO showed a knock on. As before that only delayed the inevitable. The Namibian scrum creaked but worked. The clearing kick was touched but not quite charged and while Ramos could have taken a drop goal, he ran and Jelonch scored.
Cros knocked on from the restart, then played the ball off his feet. Namibia went to the corner, but France stole the ball, worked their way downfield. Fickou, then Penaud drew defenders and Dupont scored an easy try.
From the restart, Ramos put in a nice chip and regathered it. You’re not going to see that because moments later Dupont put in a ridiculous kick with apparent ease to Biele-Biarrey in the corner. Half time saved Namibia any more pain.
Halftime score 54-0 This is their highest ever first half score.
France changed Baille, Atonio and Woki at half time. Woki has played quite a lot, Baille is returning from injury, apparently Atonio reported a sore knee. Namibia made a host of changes, I think four, I didn’t catch them all.
Namibia appeared to open the scoring but a head-on-head contact on Dupont called the try back. Dupont went off for an HIA feeling his cheek. The TMO fairly rapidly came back red, which was no surprise. From the ensuing lineout Couilloud scampered over to score.
Almost from the restart, Couilloud intercepted a pass and ran in for a try, but this was called back for a tackle off the ball. The TMO has been busy, but accurate.
Namibia kicked close to the 5m line, but the French defence held firm. France cleared the benches after a knock on, then shot down the field. Jaminet tried his best to butcher the try, but France still rescued it and Penaud scored again. From the restart, Boudehent got his tackle technique all wrong and was knocked out. Woki returned.
France got deep with a penalty, then Namibia intercepted a pass, unfortunately with a prop. He kicked ahead and Biele-Biarrey outran everyone, collected the ball, turned round and outran everyone in the opposite direction, scoring in the opposite corner. He ran a LONG way for that one.
France ran a move from deep, finished off by Olivon, who scored France’s 200th World Cup try. Australia and New Zealand beat them to this tota).
France added a try and a penalty try before the end, resulting in a new record high score for them.
Final Score 96-0
Moment of the Match
I was tempted to say the people of Marseille belting out La Marseillaise, or the starting whistle. But Atonio’s turnover penalty that led pretty directly to the first try. He is a great scrummager but can be, pretty fairly, criticised for not doing much around the pitch. He symbolised the intensity and effort the whole team were going to deliver.
There were a whole bucket load of fantastic French tries as well. They’re all worth watching.
In a more serious moment, Dupont has been taken to hospital during the match for further examination of his cheek. That might be the moment with the most lasting consequences.
Player of the Match
Ramos has to be in with a shout, missing one conversion and putting one long kick too long. 12/13 kicks is some return. Danty played the whole match on his return and scored a nice brace of tries.
But Penaud’s four tries, plus an assist takes it away on a day where it was all about the jouer and the exhibition.
In the comments recently someone asked who wants to see people run up the score against Namibia. If you only watch rugby for the contests, then by all means skip this. However, if you enjoy élan, skill and brilliant tries, both individual and team tries, you should at least watch the highlights. By all means feel sorry for Namibia, but enjoy watching a side play great rugby.