From our special correspondents in Lille
Those who expected a health walk from the Blues quickly became disillusioned. The Uruguayans posed serious problems for the French XV throughout the entire match. Aggressive, difficult, catchy, the teammates of Santiago Arata, the Castres scrum half, had a simple plan and they executed it to perfection, completely disrupting the French machine. They were faithful to their famous “garra charrua”, this strength and this state of mind which combine pride, combativeness and self-sacrifice. Already, during the Japanese World Cup in 2019, they struck hard by knocking out Fiji and losing by only one point against Wales. “I am very proud of my team. I couldn't ask for a better team to lead. We fought against France, one of the best teams in the world, on their home field. I'm very proud. We had prepared well and we came here with the conviction that against one of the big favorites of the World Cup, we could compete. So, for us, nothing surprising, we played on equal terms with France. With the level produced this evening, I am convinced that this is only a first step for Uruguay, we have confidence in our potential,” underlined Uruguayan captain Andres Vilaseca. The “Teros” struck a big blow against one of the favorites of the competition. To be confirmed against Namibia, to avoid last place in the group. And Italy must have also watched this match and said to themselves that nothing will be easy against these Uruguayans who are playing their fifth World Cup.
Impressive last week against the All Blacks after Julien Marchand's injury in the 12th minute, Peato Mauvaka was up to the task again, again as a substitute, in Lille. He was one of the rare Tricolores to shine and not sink. Entering in the 50th minute of play against Uruguay, the Toulouse player immediately brought all his punch and dynamism while his team was swaying on all sides. He was effective with the ball in hand, gaining 15 meters in four races. And an essay full of opportunism. Once again, the Wallisian proved that he was an essential pawn of the French pack. While Julien Marchand began a race against time to return for the quarter-finals, Mauvaka held the house at hooker when Pierre Bourgarit - despite good activity - ultimately disappointed by being a little messy. Mauvaka never disappoints in the blue jersey. And is clearly gaining strength in the competition.
One of the keys to last week's resounding success against the All Blacks was the discipline shown by Antoine Dupont and his teammates. Only four penalties conceded during this match, a remarkable and rare performance at international level. And then faltered against Uruguay. Fouls aplenty for a crippling total of 15 penalties conceded throughout the match. The blatant symbol of tricolor excitement. "It is enormous. It is even unacceptable at the international level. It's even fortunate to have won this match with the 15 penalties. I thought we had done a lot of work on discipline. Today we were undisciplined and it's a real shame. We would have wanted to show something else,” raged second-row Cameron Woki. I am sure that the Englishman Shaun Edwards, deputy in charge of defense, will quickly reorganize his troops after this masterful hiccup. The Blues cannot afford such failures if they want to achieve their global dream. Faced with otherwise tough opponents, it could cost much more. “We started with a performance in terms of discipline which allowed us to win the match against New Zealand. This (Thursday) evening, we had a poor performance in terms of collective control,” lamented Fabien Galthié.
Romain Ntamack forfeits, Matthieu Jalibert promoted to number 1 fly-half, we waited to see what his understudy was worth. And the least we can say is that the Rochelais has barely stood out. A try (his first in blue) certainly, and fortunately because, greedy, he had forgotten the excess on his right. And the last pass to send Louis Bielle-Biarrey on trial. For the rest, not much to remember. An ordinary kicking game and few initiatives with balls in hand to escape the rough South American defenders. We also saw more of his opposite number, Felipe Etcheverry. We can explain his lackluster performance by the lack of solutions around him. But his bad choices were numerous. “There is a little frustration because we wanted to play well collectively. We sometimes failed to respond to this valiant and rough team. There is still work to be done. Fortunately we play again in a week (against Namibia, in Marseille) and we will be better…” We hope so for him. In the meantime, Antoine Hastoy did not seize his chance, did not shake up the hierarchy. Jalibert is always the number 1 option. And Thomas Ramos, the Stade Toulousain fullback, always the first fallback solution…
In the first closed scrum, when we saw the Toulouse pillar Dorian Aldegheri annihilating the left-handed Mateo Sanguinetti, who plays in the Federal with the Massy club, we said to ourselves that the evening would be long for the Uruguayan. Captain Anthony Jelonch made no mistake by regularly requesting a scrum rather than attempting the penalty. And then curiously, after having rewarded the domination of the French right-hander four times, the New Zealand referee, Ben O'Keefe, began to share the blame. As if we had to come to the aid of the South American front line. Sanctioning Aldegheri twice. For, in the end, four scrums punished on each side. Bordering on the grotesque given French domination in this sector. Asked about the subject, Fabien Galthié dodged. “I don’t allow myself to talk about the refereeing. The referee wants things to go well, we want him to understand us. In this match, the scrum was a source of reward and punishment. We will look at this closely to define areas for improvement…”
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