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A win is a win but be thankful Wallabies weren't playing the real France

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8th July, 2021
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So a win is a win, right?

Right?

Well yes, it is of course. The Wallabies scored 23 points to France’s 21 and thus secured the first leg of the three-Test Trophee des Bicentenaires series, named after Australia celebrating 200 years of colonisation by a royal family and France a revolution against one, an interesting thing in a game opened by Gary Ella’s crackerjack welcome to country.

But that, sports fans, is an argument for another time in which nobody will concede a shred of legitimacy to the other side’s point of view.

In this one we’ll argue – agree! – that a win is a win. And top marks, Wallabies, for playing and competing and hustling until the 84th minute.

Yet when context is applied to the greater, uh, thing – the contest, the people in it, Mabo and so on, Australian rugby fans, and they largely know it, can remove the corkscrew from the Penfolds Grange vintage 1988.

Because this was not France. It was This France.

Harry Wilson runs the ball against France

(Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Consider:

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  • The grand final (or, as it’s translated by Google into French, ‘grand final’) of the French Top 14 competition was on 26 June, less than two weeks ago.
  • Twenty-six of This France’s 42-man squad is uncapped; the other 16 average 11 Tests each.
  • This France spent two weeks locked up in north-west Sydney before flying to Brisbane to play a Test match.
  • This France brought no players from their best club, Toulouse (where twin towers Rory and Richie Arnold ply their trade, just by the by).
  • This France has by some estimates perhaps six players out of 42 who’ll represent France in the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

In summary, your honour, This France is not France France.

And yet out they came. Out they came to play in their natty white zoot suits, This France, and they scrapped and ran and scored and cynically played the game at Six Nations stop-start-when-you’re-under-the-pump pace, and they nearly pulled off a win for the ages for all of Gaul.

Maybe not all of Gaul.

But if there’s an asterisk (ha) or six against the Wallabies’ last-gasp victory, it’s that This France, while leading by one point while in possession, spent the immediate seconds after the siren morphing from professional rugby players into drunken extras in a Benny Hill skit.

How about that zany man-action? Three passes that needn’t have been thrown, the third into no-man’s-land quickly owned and occupied by Australia.

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Sure, full marks to the Wallabies for the pressure, but it was by men fresh off the bench, and had they not been applying pressure, one assumes Dave Rennie would’ve questioned their fitness – and they fitness to play for Australia.

And anyway, it’s not like they were bloodthirsty Visigoths storming Rome.

Yet This France played the last minutes like Corporal Jones in Dad’s Army – Don’t panic! Don’t panic! And thus panicking like so many chooks with a fox in the hen house.

The fox was Tate McDermott, who took the loose ball, and also Taniela Tupou, who laid claims as Australia’s best in his 33-minute stint off the bench and who piled in and secured it.

There followed one-off pile-ins as Wallabies forwards thundered into This France’s line. Referee Brendon Pickerill of New Zealand penalised France, as he had done 13 times previously that evening, before Noah Lolesio slotted the three points from in front in the 84th minute.

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And that, sports fans, finally was the game.

A takeaway for Australia? Many, many mistakes. Had they, one would suggest, made that many errors against New Zealand, South Africa or even, you know, France, they’d have been down by 40 at halftime.

Marika Koroibete aims to pass the ball

(Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images for Rugby Australia)

So many knock-ons. Jake Gordon made one by rolling the ball towards his right hand with his left as he waited for the fling of the pill from the base of a ruck.

Lolesio dropped a long clearing kick by trying to take the Gilbert like a cricket ball in the outfield. He was a schoolboy two years ago, so perhaps one can forgive the nature of his error. Or perhaps he’s a tad too raw for Test match footy.

So this: 9-10-12 for Australia is a bit of a thing.

Matt To’omua’s name was mentioned twice in The Roar‘s live blog, the second time to highlight that his name was mentioned twice in The Roar‘s live blog.

For mine, I’m slotting the excellent Hunter Paisami into No. 12 – outside his knock-ons, he and Marika Koroibete looked the backs most likely.

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And when Jordan Petaia’s thigh comes good – and given he was out for “six weeks” on 10 May, one assumes he can’t be far away – then we bung him straight into the No. 13.

And those guys are our Tim Horan and Jason Little for the next decade or until they’re signed by Bordeaux and/or Tolouse.

James O’Connor must come back into the No. 10, because for all Lolesio’s promise, he’s potentially speed bump material for the monsters in black.

And I’m hanging onto Gordon at No 9 because of one play – a flat pass later called forward that Paisami stormed onto. It was a ripper.

Tupou must be considered to start, though his impact off the bench was excellent.

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The rest? Play on.

And don’t drop the ball so much.

And be thankful you’re not playing France.

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