The form without the background: the XV of France concluded its preparation for the World Cup in Japan (20 September-2 November) by a wide but confusing victory Friday at the Stade de France against Italy (47-19).
It was felt that this last round of heat, facing Azzurri far from the best in the world, would draw little lessons about the ability of the Blues to compete in three weeks with Argentina (21 September), in a shock already crucial to start the World Cup.
We have had confirmation: the XV of France has certainly won easily, but against a slight opposition, and in a meeting of a poor level, chopped by hand fouls and played on a slow pace.
The real test was Saturday in Edinburgh against Scotland, and he lost it (17-14).
It will fly to Japan next Saturday, weighted two wins (Italy and Scotland 32-3) for a loss (17-14 in Scotland last Saturday) and escorted with meager certainties, mainly in defense. Even though he still cashed three trials on Friday.
But in attack, the site remains important: lack of precision in the passes, races and supports, in-front, the Blues have returned to a stadium in France desert (30,000 spectators at most) a dull copy. Far from the hopes aroused by the first match of preparation, August 17 against Scotland in Nice (32-3).
As on the Côte d'Azur (and Edinburgh), they have yet started the floor, by an early test of Yoann Huget (3), at the conclusion of a beautiful movement with fixations and passes in the right tempo of Romain Ntamack and Wesley Fofana.
But as at Murrayfield, they then lost the thread. Much more quickly, a few minutes later, and by their only indiscipline: 10 penalties conceded in the first 30 minutes against the disordered assaults of the Italians.
For the final two yellow cards (Picamoles, 18, Slimani, 22) and a test boxed (Bellini, 20).
Their strength was to be able to put their heads back to the spot, but especially to fall on a weak Italy. Six trials followed the first? Certainly, but only one came from a proper action, the third, signed Camille Chat at the conclusion of a group-penetrating well conducted (31, 19-7).
The XV of France was thus put back in the saddle by an individual exploit, and whereas the Italians were very close to the break: after a balloon recovered by Gaël Fickou to ten meters of the tricolor in-goal, Huget revived, typed by Bellini, who held him down while he seemed able to grab the ball to register a try. Yellow card and penalty try (24, 12-7).
Huget and Ntamack earn points
The fourth tricolor also came from a solo act by Antoine Dupont behind a scrambled maul (44, 26-7). And the fifth, again initiated by Huget at the reception of a pass at the foot of Ntamack, was concluded by Iturria (46) after a succession of hazardous passes.
Wenceslas Lauret, in force (60) and Thomas Ramos (74), recovering a pass in the socks, then added to the bill. Individually, the last match of preparation was to allow some players to show, for a place in the starting XV in three weeks or glean their ticket to Japan, before the announcement of the list Monday.
If Huget remembered the good memory of the management, as Ntamack at the opening, for a titular position, Romain Taofifenua or Yacouba Camara, unruly, have probably lost points to be part of the 31. Now place the choice of staff, who can make other white hair.