French renaissance building nicely as Les Bleus see off Ireland

PARIS (Reuters) - France claimed their best Six Nations result in nine years after beating Ireland 35-27 on Saturday, with coach Fabien Galthie insisting his team’s revival is only just starting.

Rugby Union - Six Nations Championship - France v Ireland - Stade de France, Saint-Denis, France - October 31, 2020 France’s Charles Ollivon and Ireland’s James Ryan in action REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

Les Bleus finished second in the championship behind England on points difference, going close to a first title since 2010.

Three years ahead of the World Cup on home soil, France have, since Galthie took full charge at the beginning of the year, transformed into an efficient side and have started to regain their traditional flair.

“Our goal was to start winning matches and winning titles. We’ve got five wins from six games but have failed to claim a title,” Galthie told a news conference.

“But we’re generally satisfied. It’s the beginning of our history. It’s just the beginning.”

Les Bleus lack discipline, as shown by the eight penalties they coughed up in the opening half, but they compensate with impressive firepower and remarkable efficiency.

Antoine Dupont, 23, is growing into a world-class scrumhalf and his partnership with flyhalf Romain Ntamack is proving formidable.

“In our project, collective experience is paramount and those two players have been learning a lot playing together at this level,” said Galthie.

“They’ve become more mature throughout the competition, which they finished having improved a lot, and with a feeling of joy.

Ireland captain Johnny Sexton praised France’s flair.

“We knew they can score tries from nothing and that’s what they did,” he said. “There were a couple of mistakes on our side but there were moments of brilliance from them.”

Galthie said before the game that he expected his team to show more consistency and Les Bleus have delivered, following up nicely on their friendly victory over Wales.

“We can be satisfied, we just beat Ireland, who had beaten us in eight of our last nine encounters and we finish joint top with England,” he said.

“Of course, there is a bit of disappointment not to win the title because of the points difference. In my time, we would have won it because dead heats were decided on head-to-head,” Galthie, France’s scrumhalf from 1991-2003, added.

France next face Fiji on Nov. 15 in the first game of the Autumn Nations Cup.

Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ed Osmond