From social media reaction to standout statistics, we reflect on the French triumph
France’s Grand Slam celebrations – what you may have missed
“We know how long the supporters have been waiting for this win. We will enjoy this moment now.”
Those were the words of Antoine Dupont after France won the Grand Slam last night.
The France scrum-half and captain is usually a composed figure, guiding his team around the pitch with an accuracy and composure that saw Rugby World name him the best player in the world at the end of 2021.
Yet as he watched the closing minutes from the sidelines and the final whistle blew to signal that France had beaten England 25-13 in Paris to complete their first Six Nations clean sweep in 12 years he was overcome with emotion. The tears were streaming as he hugged prop Cyril Baille and the enormity of what les Bleus had achieved hit him.
Dupont may be better known for his attacking ability but it was his defensive work that stood out against England. He was France’s top tackler with 15 – incredible for a scrum-half – and the only player on the pitch to make more tackles than the No 9 was England flanker Sam Underhill. Little wonder he was named Player of the Match.
France team manager Raphael Ibanez summarised France’s determination when they didn’t have the ball by saying: “England tried to break our defence but our spirit, tactics and heart won us the game.”
This is France’s fourth Six Nations Grand Slam, after triumphs in 2002, 2004 and 2010, and puts them level with Wales for the number of clean sweeps since 2000.
Shaun Edwards, France’s defence coach, now has as many Slams as each of those two countries in the Six Nations era having helped Wales to their 2008, 2012 and 2019 titles and France to this one.
Many of the post-match statistics were relatively even between the two teams, but there were a couple of interesting contrasts. England carried for nearly twice as many metres as France – 909 to 495 – and their top five carriers all carried for more metres than France’s best.
Prop Ellis Genge, deployed to run the ball back from deep in the first quarter, was England’s second best carrier with 99 behind Marcus Smith (147).
France made 13 offloads to England’s three, these often enabling the hosts to break tackles or increase the tempo of their attack, but their ruck speed is likely to have had the biggest impact on their victory.
Almost as impressive as the skills of the players on the pitch was the skills of the stadium’s lighting technicians.
There was a brilliant display before kick-off with the main lights dimmed and the tricolores shining around the ground. Then to mark the Grand Slam feat at the end of the match there were more pyrotechnics.
French president Emmanuel Macron and former France back-row Serge Betsen were amongst those to tweet their congratulations.
After the trophy lift came the lap of honour, with players gatecrashing TV broadcasts, dancing with the trophy and leading clap celebrations with the crowd.
The back-room team enjoyed the celebrations, too, with Ibanez and head coach Fabien Galthie getting their hands on the trophy they lifted together as players back in 2002.
After all that, it was no surprise that Dupont was a little tired when it came to the bus journey out of the stadium, with the clock having ticked well past midnight in Paris.
There will surely be a few more celebrations today, though.
After waiting 12 years to see their team lift this trophy again, French fans will be hoping more silverware is on the horizon. After all, this team has long spoken of building for next year’s Rugby World Cup on home soil – and they could be even better in 18 months’ time.
As Ibanez says: “There is more to come, we can still improve our game.”
Download the digital edition of Rugby World straight to your tablet or subscribe to the print edition to get the magazine delivered to your door.
Follow Rugby World on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.