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Bastareaud happy with the hymn sheet: Winning ugly is the new French flair

Here’s our weekly attempt to figure out which French team is going to show up.

LES BLEUS HAVE a theme-tune that has taken hold of the squad in recent weeks.

It goes… SHA NA NA NANANA NAAA…

Source: Samsich/YouTube

Harmless enough, maybe? Although the more cruel among the readers and commenters tend to argue that it suits Philippe Saint-Andre’s men because it is such a simple, repetitive and unimaginative tune.

The players don’t mind, of course. Players never really care until it all falls apart. Then they ‘knew it was wrong all along’. Wesley Fofana’s advert for some rather large headphones on the eve of the tournament summed up the mood in a way adverts ordinarily gloss over. Other nations had fist-pumping, car-crushing, ready-for-war messages. France, it seemed, were battening down the hatches for a dispute of a civil nature.

Last week, PSA rounded on a journalist for trying to impose the virtues of tennis on the ‘confrontational man’s game’ of rugby. But the critics have not been sated by a bonus point win over Romania. This time the issue of France’s off-colour attacking ethos was presented to Mathieu Bastareaud.

Ce n’est pas très joli à voir mais on gagne les matches.

His summation, fittingly enough for the man who has graced five European finals in five straight seasons: ‘It’s not pretty, but we win.’

“Before we did not earn (victories), that was the problem. There is always a problem,”  Bastareaud told Rugbyrama before reverting to a less sarcastic tone.

“We are aware that not everything is perfect. All we ask is patience. And sometimes, we do not feel we are supported as we should be. But I speak of a minority of people. And for me, at least, I do not care a bit.”

BASTA

All this siege mentality must bring up some lingering doubt to the surface of Irish minds. In the Six Nations, the light tends to flicker like it’s being powered by Freddy Michalak’s WattBike. In the World Cup, they sparkle like July 14. They haven’t been pretty over the last four years and have failed to beat Ireland since 2011, but will that really matter when they return to Cardiff with the pool on the line?

Don’t mind us, that’s just 28 years of World Cup fatalism talking. Besides, they’re worried about us too.

A nation that prides itself on flair really stood up to take notice of Ireland’s opening would-be try on Saturday:

Source: World Rugby

Zebo, a centimetre away from try of the World Cup,’ Eurosport applauded. And they’re on the verge of clapping for Joe Schmidt too. It’s old hat to everyone on these shores by now, but Schmidt’s search for improvement on 10/10.

You know, they’re even a bit jealous of an Ireland side ‘running at full tubes’.

Mais! The big ‘but’: what Ireland have demolished so far were merely the mises en bouche, the main courses and true tests are just around the corner for both.

France will enjoy a 10-day turnaround after a clash with Canada. Ireland must recover from Italy in seven. Who’ll be singing then?

Originally published at 16.12

It was a fairly explosive day at England’s press conference yesterday

France have brought back the big guns for Thursday’s meeting with Canada

About the author:

Sean Farrell

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