Typically French. Narrow wins over Italy and Ireland followed up by defeats to Wales and Scotland to end their title hopes, before being finished off by England on the final weekend. One win and one defeat to Samoa before honourable defeats (if such a thing should exist at this level) to Australia and the All Blacks. In all, a mixed bag.
Coach France finished the year with improved performances against two of the Southern Hemisphere big guns and Guy Noves has played a huge role in that; just 12 months before France were humiliated by a 62-13 defeat to New Zealand at the World Cup.
Hooker Guilhem Guirado leads his team from the front and was one of few of Les Bleus who could hold his head high 12 months ago. He is on page with Noves and leading change from the front with an incredible work rate. His time as skipper hasn’t returned many wins yet, but he will want to put that right.
With capped players not falling into the new French selection policy, it means Noa Nakaitaci is free to play for Les Bleus. A Fiji-born hulking, brute of a winger with dancing feet and the ability to conjure tries
One to watch
It’s been a while since France had a settled half back pairing, but they will hope they have half of one in Baptiste Serin. The Bordeaux Begles scrum half could be the one to get the French back division firing. Quick, composed, creative and just 22 years old; Serin could be France’s future, but can he be their present?
A new, fast paced offloading game saw France compete with Australia and New Zealand in the autumn. If they can eradicate the small errors from their game, they could be a force.
Injuries have decimated France and they lost five players in one Champions Cup weekend and a long, physical Top 14 season will not have helped. It’s left them without an established centre pairing, uncertainty over their halfbacks and no time to adapt with England at Twickenham up first.
It’s all down to progress. If France can improve on the performance that they ended 2016 with, they can compete. However, inconsistency has been their downfall in recent years, but with England at Twickenham up first the result could set the tone for their tournament.
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