Wales vs. France: Winners and Losers from 2016 RBS 6 Nations Clash

Daniel Rey@@ReyDanielMFeatured ColumnistFebruary 26, 2016

Wales vs. France: Winners and Losers from 2016 RBS 6 Nations Clash

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    Alastair Grant/Associated Press

    Wales beat France 19-10 at the Principality Stadium to take them to two wins and a draw from three matches in the 2016 RBS 6 Nations.

    Wales scored their try after a dreadful error from Jules Plisson, and despite France having the better of the second half and pressuring for long periods, Wales always seemed in control.

    Plisson, then, was one loser. There were two more losers for France and, possibly counterintuitively, one winner from Les Bleus. 

Loser: Guy Noves’ Game Plan

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    David Rogers/Getty Images

    “Guy Noves has a game plan?” you ask.

    There certainly didn’t seem to be much evidence of the coach having one in the first half. Going wide without momentum, except for Virimi Vakatawa’s one break, France were playing too laterally, too early.

    Teams have to earn the right to go wide by drilling holes in the opposition defence first. Without sucking in defenders through big carries, France had no space to exploit and no quick ball. Centre Jonathan Danty was there to do just that but barely made an impact.

Loser: Jules Plisson

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    Plisson, the French fly-half, has been featured every week of the RBS Six Nations in these winner/loser articles. As he did a fortnight ago against Ireland, Plisson started badly. In the first five minutes, a forward pass to Djibril Camara and a wayward one flying over Vakatawa’s head wasted decent poseession.

    Plisson had even more of a nightmare opening to the second half, providing the assist for George North’s Welsh try (see video above). Instead of diving on the ball after North miskicked it, he laid it off perfectly for the giant wing.

    Then, even with France having a penalty advantage in the Welsh 22, a chip kick for hooker Guilhem Guirado up against North was never going to work. In any case, it went way over the front rower.

    Shortly afterwards, he was substituted for Francois Trinh-Duc and not a moment too soon. To pour further scorn on Plisson’s abject performance, Trinh-Duc glided past Welsh defenders, kicked cleverly and showed more of a threat in 20 minutes than Plisson had across 60.

Winner: Guilhem Guirado

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    Guirado may have been captain of a French team that lost by nine points at the Principality Stadium, but he was by far the best player on the field in Cardiff. A constant ball-carrying threat, Guirado was often at first receiver when France pressed the Welsh goal line.

    Guirado’s set piece was first-rate, helping to win penalties at the scrum (Guirado also won one in his own five-metre area with superb breakdown work when Wales looked certain to score), and his try from a lineout drive (see video on previous slide) was reward for a fine individual performance.

    Guirado secured a Pyrrhic personal victory, and if other French players had followed his example, France would have come much closer to Wales.

Loser: Virimi Vakatawa

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    Vakatawa has a background in sevens, and nothing he has shown this RBS Six Nations suggests that he can be a force in the 15-a-side game. He is unable to gather kicks, doesn’t pick running lines off his midfielders and doesn’t carry the ball powerfully enough.

    Vakatawa’s tactical naivety almost cost France a try at the end of the first half after Gareth Davies’ fine break and kick (see video above). Taking a complete air shot rather than carrying the ball into touch, Vakatawa had Maxime Medard’s brilliant cover-play to thank for sparing his blushes.

Winner: Gareth Davies

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    GEOFF CADDICK/Getty Images

    Davies was man of the match for Wales after showing his usual sharpness from the base of the ruck. Although he didn’t have as good a game as Guirado, his break that almost led to a try in the first half was the highlight of a mundane match (see previous slide for video).

    Davies, who may not have been the first-choice No. 9 for Wales were it not for Rhys Webb’s injury ahead of the World Cup, is now among the best scrum halves in Europe.

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