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Six Nations 2023: France 41-28 Wales - Les Bleus win keeps title hopes alive

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Published in Rugby
Saturday, 18 March 2023 09:34

France kept alive their hopes of retaining the Six Nations with a bonus-point win against Wales in Paris.

An early George North try gave Wales hope, but France responded with two tries from Damien Penaud and scores from Jonathan Danty, Uini Atonio and Gael Fickou.

Thomas Ramos kicked 16 points, while Bradley Roberts, Tomos Williams and Rio Dyer crossed for Wales.

Ireland look to clinch the title against England in the final match.

Victory will secure Ireland the Grand Slam while a draw or a loss with two bonus points will also be enough. If Ireland earn one bonus point in defeat, the title will be decided on points difference.

France picked up from their record 53-10 win against England at Twickenham with head coach Fabien Galthie only making two changes with the inclusion of prop Uini Atonio and lock Romain Taofifenua.

So Les Bleus head to the World Cup in their own country later this year having won 17 out of the last 18 matches and ranked second in the world.

In contrast, Wales have now lost 13 out of the last 17 games and lie in ninth in the world rankings as they ponder where they go from here following another underwhelming Six Nations campaign.

Warren Gatland's side have emulated the Wayne Pivac team of last year with only one win and four defeats in this campaign, resulting in another fifth-place finish.

Wales knew before the game they would not claim the Wooden Spoon with Italy finishing bottom of the Six Nations table for an 18th time since 2000.

But the visitors' fans will be encouraged by the battling second-half display that at least ensured Wales leave Paris with a losing bonus point for scoring four tries.

Tinkerman and fond Six Nations farewells?

Gatland made six changes from the team that defeated Italy to take the amount of alterations in the tournament to 26 as he opted for experience in Paris.

The Wales coach flagged the end of an era for Wales in Paris on Saturday by predicting "up to eight" players will potentially make their final Six Nations appearances. Defeat was not the farewell they would have wanted from this tournament.

The starting side boasted more than 1,000 caps, with four Welsh centurions when the game kicked off at Stade de France.

Taulupe Faletau led the side out as he became the eighth player to play 100 Wales internationals following in the footsteps of Alun Wyn Jones, Gethin Jenkins, Dan Biggar, George North, Stephen Jones, Martyn Williams and Gareth Thomas.

There was a moment's applause before kick-off to mark the first anniversary of the death of former Argentina international Federico Martin Aramburu who was shot dead in a drive-by shooting in Paris a year ago.

Wales showed early ambition by deciding to go for an attacking line-out rather than a penalty, but it was repelled by France.

The patient and persistent tactics continued and an excellent pass from scrum-half Rhys Webb allowed North to canter over for his 44th Wales try and lift him into the world's top 10 try scorers in history. Biggar converted.

France responded almost immediately after recalled Wales centre Nick Tompkins missed an attempted tackle on Romain Ntamack with Antoine Dupont's long pass finding Penaud to score in the corner.

France centre Fickou avoided a yellow tackle for an illegal tackle on Wales lock Alun Wyn Jones with the Wales lock lifted above the horizontal.

A few minutes later Jones had to go off the field for a head injury assessment. He was temporarily replaced by Dafydd Jenkins, before returning.

Ramos extended the lead with two penalties before the rampant hosts released Danty on the right hand side to score with Ramos kicking the conversion as the hosts ominously led 20-7 at half-time.

The onslaught continued in the second half with the France attack pulling the Welsh defence from side to side before prop Atonio crossed for his first try in his 50th international. Ramos again converted.

Wales battle back

Wales made three replacements, including bringing off captain Owens and lock Jones as the pair consider whether this was their last Six Nations involvement.

Fickou then sliced through the disorganised Welsh midfield defence to score the bonus point try.

Wales rallied and responded with a first international try from replacement hooker Roberts, following a clever Tomos Williams kick and Justin Tipuric turnover.

Cardiff prop Dillon Lewis came on as a replacement for his 50th international before Faletau was brought off and embraced by his team-mates.

Impressive scrum-half Tomos Williams sparked Wales' recovery and gained his reward with the third try as the visitors' renaissance continued.

Replacement prop Gareth Thomas then ran into Penaud off the ball, but no penalty was given despite the howls from the Stade de France crowd. Penaud had the last laugh in that battle as he cantered in for his second try.

Full-back Leigh Halfpenny came on as a late replacement for his 99th Wales international and his final job was to convert a fine late individual effort from wing Dyer.

France: Ramos; Penaud, Fickou, Danty, Dumortier; Ntamack, Dupont (capt); Baille, Marchand, Atonio, Flament, Taofifenua, Cros, Ollivon, Alldritt

Replacements: Mauvaka, Wardi, Falatea, Chalureau, Macalou, Lucu, Moefana, Jaminet.

Wales: Rees-Zammit; Adams, North, Tompkins, Dyer; Biggar, Webb; Wyn Jones, Owens (capt), Francis, Beard, Alun Wyn Jones, Wainwright, Tipuric, Faletau.

Replacements: Roberts, G Thomas, D Lewis, D Jenkins, Reffell, T Williams, O Williams, Halfpenny.

Match officials

Referee: Nic Berry (Australia)

Touch judges: Andrew Brace (Ireland) & Christophe Ridley (England)

TMO: Joy Neville (Ireland)

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