France leave it late to break English hearts


France replacement centre Gael Fickou crossed in the 76th minute to break English hearts, with the hosts seeing out the last few minutes to win 26-24 at the Stade de France in Paris.

It was a game in which the momentum changed hands on several occasions, with France starting the stronger, scoring two tries in the first 17 minutes through Yoann Huget, before England hit back with one of their own through Mike Brown before the break.

England continued in the ascendency after half time, with Luther Burrell scoring a try and Owen Farrell adding a conversion and a penalty, and Danny Care slotted a drop goal to take England five points ahead, before Fickou scored at the death.

Owen Farrell had a good game for England and was their most important player, according to the stats from IBM TryTracker. Completing 30 passes, making five gainline breaks and beating two defenders, he led the England backline with aplomb, and answered his critics who claim he cannot attack the gainline. Billy Vunipola was another to contribute heavily.

For France, Yannick Nyanga was absolutely superb, a thorn in England’s side all afternoon. He, along with Yoann Huget who scored an early brace, were France’s key influencers.


France smashed two of their three ‘Keys to the Game’, achieving a scrum success rate of 100% while also averaging 4.1 metres per carry in the forwards. England, by contrast, failed to meet two of their three, having only five kicks at goal and averaging just 5.8 metres per carry in the backs.

For more live stats on matchdays, head to the RFU website and IBM TryTracker

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images

31 thoughts on “France leave it late to break English hearts

  1. Tom Youngs poor line out costs us another match. I don’t care how many metres he makes, if he can’t do the basics.

    Thought the late subs were a bit bizarre. The closers didn’t close the match.

  2. Our bench wasn’t to blame, we had two broken wingers, no normal bench can cover two broken wingers. And it was down that wing the french were attacking at the end (and broke through).

    New boys went well. Nowell beat more defenders than Ashton managed in 2013, and tackled very well (including Picamoles twice).

    Backs actually played, Farrell was flatter and showed some good moments in amongst his usual standard. I think this surprised the pack a bit, because I often felt that we were 2nd best at the breakdown, nearly always getting there 2nd and having to clear frenchmen off of our attacking ball. Hopefully the pack will adapt, if not, and we continue to play with the ball, the calls for a real ruck-monkey may start becoming justified.

    1. Completely disagree. There was no need for Hartley and Care to come off. We had momentum and just needed one more score. Lancaster is so predictable with his substitutions and seems to have no instinct when it comes to the flow of the game. Also is Care hadn’t been subbed needlessly then he could have shifted to the wing when Nowell got injured, which is a more natural positional shift than having your centre there.

      I see very little progress here from the match with NZ. Conceding a soft lead, working our way back and then losing our nerve (as well as our line out) in the final stages.

  3. I always had this down as a French win but took much more encouragement out of it than I expected. Second rows up there with the very best and certainly a match for any in the NH. Billy V fast becoming world class and Morgan almost as good. Care excellent and a big mistake taking him off. Farrell best game in an England shirt and starting to inspire some confidence. 36 gradually getting there, Burrell encouraging first game and Brown a rock. BUT our props were just not good enough in the tight and Tom Youngs not good enough for the bench. New wings a bit callow but May could easily have grown into the game and impressed as the few touches he had before injury looked exciting.

    For me England performed better than Wales against Italy and France looking the likely championship winner (I hope so at least or Paddy Power will get his hands on my money!) but not with a grand slam

  4. I think England showed genuine character to force their way back into,and then to lead the match.Lesser sides would have blown away by that French performance.But I’m left bewildered by the substitutions.I’m not Care’s biggest fan,but he was on fire and you just knew that line outs were under threat the moment you saw Youngs.I haven’t yet heard Lancaster’s response to the game,but I hope that amid all the blue sky babble that he talks there is some clear reference to where he is on the managerial curve?

  5. When Youngs came on I thought “oh no there goes the line out”, when Mako came on I thought “oh no there goes the scrum!” Check the last six or seven scrums – if you can’t scrummage, you are not a prop. I’m afraid the man who lost the game for England was not on the pitch. Mr Lancaster ought to apologise to his team who, until those stupid substitutions were made, had given 100 percent and were marching to victory. France didn’t win that game, Lancaster lost it. Well done rookie Nowell. A couple of mistakes but beat more men than Ashton made in the whole of 2013! I think Lancaster is still the man but Stuart Stuart, please be careful with those subs.

  6. Farrell, Goode and Brown all kicked well, and after early breakdown issues the forwards were able to convert that into a solid platform. Made too many silly errors to win though. Goode’s ‘tackle’ for their 2nd try was atrocious.

    Don’t like criticising him because he’s so good, but I think Launchbury was to blame for the winning try. Maybe he shouldn’t have found himself defending inside the winger, but he has a long time to recognise that Szarzewski is his man and he never seems to do it, stays too narrow. Perhaps Burrell didn’t need to be sucked in, Barritt might have got there eventually, but I can’t imagine Burrell has spent much time defending at 14.

    Impact from the bench was very disappointing. Think injuries played a part because we became so disorganised with people out of position, but individually only Morgan can hold his head up. I imagine Webber/Eastmond/Watson must come into consideration.

    I wonder when France are gonna take the plunge with Fickou. Him and Fofana could be incredible.

    1. Well Lancaster has been extolling Youngs contribution. I don’t care what he can do in the loose if he can’t hit his jumpers then he should be out. I am also dreading upcoming matches against Scotland and Wales given our woeful performance in the scrum.

  7. I am delighted to learn I could see all the same fault lines as everyone else.This is not good 18months out from the world cup.One matter of detail is that Goode’s ability to tackle is on a par with Ashton watch the first and last French try.Pathetic

  8. Felt bad for Jack Nowell as he was trying so damn hard. Definitely want him to play next match.
    Johnny May looked too exciting don’ t know how he did his nose but im betting andy farrell chucked a quick left after he showed a flash of genuine creativity.
    I am worried that England are going the same way as NZ in the scrum. forward pack very mobile but never going to dominate and acrue points from penalties.
    For the first time in an england shirt we saw joe marler carrying freely in space which was good.
    I want to know what happens to Ben Morgan when he pulls that rose on. yesterday he made vunipola and picamoles easy to tackle. saod it before and ill say it again i want to see morgs and billy on the pitch at the same time to see how it works.
    i lile tom youngs and i think its because he is so pleasant and tries sohard that we all defend him a bit. however i starting to think rob webber should be given some more game time. remarkably more technical and bigger too.
    i know launchbury played himself into the mud but he should have caught dimitri.
    burrell was good i thought better than 36 and lets face it only manu can run straight at bastareud and get away with it there is no other centre like him not even nonu for straight power so we shouldnt be concerned about that tackle.
    waaay too many knockons. and for a team that cant decide which 12 to play with manu why did we have 3 on the pitch at the same time? not having a sub 10 is silly and alex goode is slow and kicks too early.
    thought we were pretty rubbish and for 60 mins were basically in control. hmmm 60 mins in control and losing sounds like nz all.over again

  9. Why when you are so close and winning would you change two lynch pins in your team hooker and scrum half both playing extremely well with players not up to the pace of the game. 20 points ahead no problem, but we see crucial errors when they are substituted which in effect cost England the game. France were not in the game until the substitutions. Goode is a good player but not quick enough for internationals and Farrell doesn’t have the ability to read when to chip or grubber balls through to turn defences. Ford should have been on the bench. A game lost for no reason other than bad management and lack of nouse in game management. Would also like to see billy and Morgan attacking the gain line then make the subs. After they have worn out defences. Billy always on his own with no pace from players running onto the ball, basics.

  10. As pretty much every pundit has pointed out today, the French had some ridiculous luck in their first two tries (although the last one was brilliant).

    Excellent game, obviously going to happen in Owens is the ref. Gutted to lose but that was a fantastic performance overall.

    Farrell was brilliant yesterday, by far his best england game, really looking up and attacking. Vunipola showed why he will be the best 8 in the northern hemisphere, what a performance. Marler played well toThe centres removed fofana and basteraud from the game – they did nothing. Nowell had an unfortunate start but really got into the game as it went on and his defence was great.

    Tom youngs lineout was a nightmare. Goode cannot tackle. Dickson added nothing. Gutted for jonny may. As posted above, i would ove to see vunipola switch to 6 in the latter stages to get him and morgan on at the same time. Next week:

    Marler, Hartley, cole, launch, lawes, wood, robshaw, vunipola, care, farrell, nowell, 12t, burrell, watson, brown – vunipola, youngs, thomas, attwood, morgan, youngs, ford, eastmond

  11. Lots of comments about taking Hartley off, but did anyone see Hartley when he came off. He was absolutely shattered. I don’t think he could have continued.

  12. Cracking game to watch england a litle bit unlucky to loose in the end. I think the sub of danny kerr who was bossing the game and had the fench forward worn out with his quick thinking and pace was maybe a pure disigion. Positive for england billy vunipola looks world class already and then to have the option of ben morgan aswell is jus ridculess how much power england have there. Jack nowell had a shocking start but came through and i would deffently be picking him next week i think he adds a threat that not many english backs do (hes not jus all about power). The pack looks very strong even though in my opinion there are better otions in the back row witch is scary. The negative is suppose are the same as they were before the game in the mid feild. burrel had a soild game but he is a 12 so why on earth u would play him a 13 is just so english. i dont fancy 12ts at all i would put burrell in at 12 use him to get over the gain line pick som1 at 13 with a bit more flair maybe johny may. Have to say the rest of us are lucky england havent got the backs because they are soooo hard to beat as it is . Glad france won because as an irish fan i think we would fancy winning in paris more than in england especialy if the weather is bad.

  13. I like Billy V but he isn’t the best 8 in the northern hemisphere. He carries well but parisse and faletau have much better all round games and picamoles, heaslip and Morgan all carry pretty much as well. If he keeps improving, he has the chance to be one of the best in the NH I do agree.

    While on 8s. Please SL do not play back row players out of position. Tried that before and it didn’t work. I know Billy can play 6, but firstly it is a step up at international level. Woods can play 8, just not for England! Secondly a back row needs to balance carrying, tackling, breakdown work, etc and at the moment we have it. Having two carriers would muck that up and England would be worse for it.

    1. Totally agree on not playing people out of position buuuuut. ..If the conditions were right (say we’re well on top) I wouldn’t mind seeing Bill and Ben Power pot men in the same back row obliterating tired opposition!

      Something I would like to see is SL make better use of his squad. Launchbury (a favourite of mine) looked dead on his feet for the final try. After Cardiff last year I am of the opinion that you cannot have players playing 80 every game. I fear without Wilson Cole (who already looks a bit weary) will be absolutely flogged. Wood and Robshaw too.

      1. Trouble is, who is winning the quick ball to allow them to run? Stand by my opinion that this would not be a good idea.

        1. They are both good at the clear out, especially Morgs, when he was missing last year the ball slowed down so much it wasn’t just his ball carrying it was his clearing out work too

  14. Well no Grand Slam this year either.
    Despite all the blurb from the English Broadcasting Corp. The pundits and the Media were ever so right about the backline-pick a young one when he’s good enough-thing was he was actually 19 and playing for France for only 6 mins.

    Imagine what Fofana and Fickou could do together over 80mins!!!

    1. Slightly blinkered point of view. An English debutant also scored, and was part of a midfield that kept the vaunted French midfield quiet.

      It wasn’t the fact that the English players weren’t good enough , it was just a lack of experience across too many positions that told in the end, as well as injuries. Fickou came into a settled backline and took his opportunity well. Most pundits picked him as a potential bright point for France this year.

      Personally I would wait until Wales have played France before crowing!

      1. If you want a blinkered view listen to comments by John Inverdale Jerry Guscott and Clive Woodentop and you’d think the only team in the 6n was England.

        Look at newspapers like the Telegraph-page after page on England and the Celtic Nations mentioned in parenthesis.

        Even the clips the EBC uses always feature England scoring and hardly any other UK nation get a look in.

  15. Good point Benjit.Youngs can carry well when the pack as a whole has ‘go forward’,but his untimely[Lancaster’s blinkered decision] appearance highlighted his shortcomings.We held on in the scrum,the lineout was where we had a control point and we handed it straight to them.I honestly believe that the substitutions England made lost us the match.

    1. I fear that T Youngs will continue to get picked whilst he has “credit in the bank”. It’s a good job SL isn’t in charge of a bank, the line of credit he affords would cause another financial crash!

      1. Well Rob Webber has gone back to Bath this week, so Youngs the elder will get another go, and that is surely right. However, his technical ability at the lineout has to improve.

        The good news is that this is easier to address than getting an excellent thrower to improve around the park, and too come up to Youngs’ standards in ball carrying and breakdown work. Not ideal, but he is not the first international hooker to throw a few wobbly lineouts in an international.

        1. Yeah. and it’s also easy to forget he’s only been playing front row a few years. when Parling is around he seems to throw in ok, and that’s practise and time giving him a bit of a comfort zone. But he’s so good in other ares it’s worth persevering with him. I love Webber, he’s a really good option, but I don’t mind giving Youngs time to develop given how much of an x-factor he is.

  16. I’m encouraged in a lot of aspects with the game – shame about the result. France got spotted two early tries – and in internationals when a win by more than a single score is a big result, that’s a massive head start. It’s always a game of inches, and if the ball had bounced even slightly different on either of those I think we’re talking about an England win.

    Stat wise, I am assuming there will show a lot of missed tackles by England, but while Goode’s on the second try and some on the winner left something to be desired, in general a lot of the missed tackle were due to the line speed – so often the Franch player took the ball with a white shirt screaming up and could spin or sidestep to avoid the tackler, at the cost of their own momentum, allowing the follow up players to scrag them for a loss.

    But sticking with the positives –
    in a tough, pressured match Farrell had an excellent game. If he can keep attacking the gainline and use his runners as well as kick with a purpose he could be a keeper.
    Care’s best game for England. I had though he would never be able to translate his club form upwards, but I was encouraged.
    Burrell did just fine – his try was simple enough, but he still did more good things in one game than Tompkins did all autumn.
    Brown is becoming a very good solid player – that try was very well taken and he was positive and abrasive throughout.
    I’ve been waiting for Lawes to become this player forever! He really seems to have become a player of substance. He and Launchbury are a genuinely impressive pairing, and with Parling and Attwood we are set at lock.
    Robshaw just keeps on getting better. Last year I thought his leg power in the carry was his major weakness – he always stopped dead on contact, but not on Saturday. He really did a vast ammount of work and did it well. He and Wood seem to be the motor on which the rest of the team depend.

    Last season the major weakness of the pack was carrrying – when Morgan went down there wasn’t a lot of gainline work. Now, with Billy V, Lawes and Marler making inroads, the rest of the pack seem to have a few more opportunities.

    My major concern is the props, and in part I don’t even think it’s their fault. Both 2nd rows are part lock, part flanker, and I don’t think the scrum is their forte – this applies to Parling too, Attwood not so much. We can get away with a slightly lightweight engine room if Corbisiero is fit.

    I’m encouraged with the pace and game plan – especially given the lack of experience from 10 outwards.

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