France coach Fabien Galthie accused Wales' players of making sure Paul Willemse was sent off in Saturday's dramatic Six Nations encounter and urged the authorities not to impose a heavy sanction on the second-rower.

Wales were denied a famous Grand Slam by a last-gasp Brice Dulin try as Les Bleus kept their own championship hopes alive with a breathless 32-30 triumph in Paris.

That was despite France having to play out the final 12 minutes with 14 men after referee Luke Pearce judged Willemse made contact with the eyes of Wyn Jones.

Galthie, speaking through a translator at the post-match news conference, said: "If you watch the Wales players, it feels like they specialise in making sure opponents get red cards.

"Their body language is quite clear, I hope the referees are going to take that into consideration. I don't think he deserves a sanction.

"If you watch the video there is clearly no contact, or if there is it's clearly very limited. It's absolutely not voluntary. I believe we need to share this, I don't see why he should be sanctioned."

Oppositive number Wayne Pivac was keen not to be drawn into a back-and-forth over the incident.

"I don't really have any comment to that," said Pivac. "The match officials are running the game and they have plenty of replays.

"As you saw, it went on for some time. They went through their process and that's what the officials are there to do."

While it was heartbreak in the French capital for Wales, the hosts still have a rearranged fixture against Scotland to play.

To deny Wales the trophy, Galthie's men have to secure a bonus-point win over Scotland and triumph by at least 21 points.

Gael Fickou hopes the best is still to come for France in this year's tournament.

"The pinnacle? I hope it will be next week," the versatile centre said. "Scotland have a great team who are playing very well. We know it will be a complicated match.

"But we will do it step by step. Already, we must try to win it. And then we'll see what happens. We know it will be difficult, but we believe in it."

For Pivac, coming so close to a Grand Slam but falling short left the New Zealander feeling "numb".

"[It's] just desperately frustrating. The players got so close. We have to be proud of them," Pivac added.

"It's quite a numb feeling. The boys had put in such a fantastic effort, the game went pretty much to plan in the first half.

"We were urging them on, but to go from a potential Grand Slam to waiting another six days is frustrating."

France boss Fabien Galthie said his team "lost control" against England as Maro Itoje's late try allowed the hosts to snatch a 23-20 victory at Twickenham.

In a sizzling Six Nations match, France went ahead through Antoine Dupont after just 65 seconds and led 20-13 early in the second half.

They were looking like earning a first victory in the championship in London since 2005 until England came back strongly in the closing stages.

Itoje crossed in the 76th minute, with a TMO verdict showing he had just managed to ground the ball.

Galthie told broadcaster France 2: "In the second period, we lost control of the match. We backed off. We held the line until Maro Itoje scored.

"The English ended up stronger, they managed to occupy the field more than we did. The team had a big game. 

"We were ahead until three minutes from the end, but that's not enough."

France had won their opening two matches before a COVID-19 outbreak in the squad caused the clash with Scotland to be postponed.

Talk of a Grand Slam would have abounded had they held on against England, but it was not to be.

Galthie added in a news conference: "The two teams delivered a great match, before a denouement that must be digested.

"It played out once again in the final minutes. But above all, I am proud of my players, of their solidarity.

"It's a game that makes you grow. We didn't win but they felt we could win it. There are two, three key moments that perhaps would have allowed us to finish it more comfortably.

"In the end, the English dispossessed us of the ball because we conceded penalties, lost balls. But that's good. The team learns."

France face Grand Slam-chasing Wales next Saturday in Paris, knowing a victory over the Red Dragons would keep hopes alive of winning the championship.

Galthie added, according to Le Figaro, that France would react "by keeping the positives".

"We will digest this result together and switch to Wales now," he said. "That match starts right away. It depends on our ability to share and experience together the frustration to plan for the match that awaits us next Saturday."

Antoine Dupont has become the latest member of France's Six Nations set-up to test positive for COVID-19.

Head coach Fabien Galthie, assistant William Servat and another unspecified member of the backroom team have returned positive results since last weekend's 15-13 victory over Ireland in Dublin.

The French Rugby Federation (FFR) announced on Wednesday that no players had tested positive for coronavirus and they had been permitted to return home ahead of further testing on Friday.

Although 11 players returned negative results in the latest batch of testing, Dupont was found to be positive.

"The player who tested positive for COVID-19 is Antoine Dupont," read an FFR statement. "To date, he is asymptomatic. In accordance with protocol he will remain in isolation for the next few days."

The France squad are due to return to the National Rugby Centre in Marcoussis on Sunday to begin preparing for Scotland's visit to Paris the following weekend.

A third member of the France backroom team has tested positive for coronavirus, but the players have been cleared to continue their isolation at home after returning negative results.

The French Rugby Federation confirmed on Tuesday that head coach Fabien Galthie and an unnamed member of staff were positive for COVID-19 and would self-isolate for seven days.

Following another round of testing later that day, assistant coach William Servat returned a positive result.

However, with all players testing negative for the second time in succession, they were permitted to return home on Wednesday.

Further coronavirus tests will be carried out at their homes on Friday and on Sunday, when the players return to the National Rugby Centre in Marcoussis.

France, who won their opening two Six Nations games against Italy and Ireland, are scheduled to face Scotland in Paris on February 28.

The squad for that game is due to be announced on Wednesday.

France had their Six Nations plans disrupted by a positive COVID-19 test that sent the squad into self-isolation on Tuesday.

The French Rugby Federation (FFR) also said head coach Fabien Galthie would be retested amid concerns he may have coronavirus.

It was another figure from within the France camp, who was not named, that returned a positive result following testing on Monday.

Announcing that news, the FFR said on Tuesday: "Following the PCR tests carried out last night in Marcoussis with the France XV, all the players tested negative, a member of the technical staff tested positive, as well as a suspicious and unproven case concerning Fabien Galthie who will be tested again this morning.

"In accordance with health protocol, all members of the team and management were isolated this morning. Interactions are kept to a minimum.

"An additional test at the National Rugby Centre will be carried out on Wednesday morning for the entire squad."

The squad are due to disperse later this week to be allowed a short time at home between matches, with France, who have won their opening two games, not in action again until they face Scotland on February 28 in Paris.

They scored a fine 15-13 win over Ireland in Dublin on Sunday to follow up the opening 50-10 victory over Italy.

The FFR statement added: "Tests will be carried out at home on Friday, as well as on Sunday evening at the National Rugby Centre when the squad reunites.

"The announcement of the 31 players for the Scotland match will take place this Wednesday evening, February 17."

Fabien Galthie has promised France are prepared for whatever "chaos" they might encounter as they prepare to tackle Ireland in Dublin.

The thumping 50-10 win over Italy in Rome last week gave France a fast start to their Six Nations campaign, but they were always expected to win comfortably there, and taking on Ireland is a very different prospect.

Galthie has made two changes to his starting XV for Sunday's game, bringing in wing Damien Penaud and flanker Anthony Jelonch for Teddy Thomas and Dylan Cretin.

France are looking for back-to-back wins over Ireland in the Six Nations for the first time since 2010-11, having beaten them in Paris in October, but Les Bleus have lost five of the past seven encounters between the teams in the championship.

However, Galthie feels France are shaping up as an increasingly formidable force, saying: "You just have to look at the results. We won eight out of 10 matches."

The defeats in that sequence cited by Galthie came with 14 men at Murrayfield in last year's Six Nations, and in sudden death to England in the Autumn Nations Cup.

"In Scotland we lost following a red card and in London we lost in extra time. We are doing it the right way, we continue our march," Galthie said. "We will continue to make progress in many areas. We have a significant space for improvement.

"You have to be prepared for any challenge, anywhere and against anyone. You have to prepare to experience chaos with as much solidity as possible.

"This is what we prepare for without forgetting to face the unexpected."

Galthie believes Penaud may be an ideal physical fit for the task of stopping Ireland, and he said of Jelonch: "He has this ability to be tough in combat, moreover the more the intensity rises, the more he becomes dominant."

 

France: Brice Dulin, Damien Penaud, Arthur Vincent, Gael Fickou, Gabin Villiere, Matthieu Jalibert, Antoine Dupont; Cyril Baille, Julien Marchand, Mohamed Haouas, Bernard Le Roux, Paul Willemse, Anthony Jelonch, Charles Ollivon, Gregory Alldritt.

Replacements: Pierre Bourgarit, Hassane Kolingar, Uini Atonio, Romain Taofifenua, Dylan Cretin, Baptiste Serin, Anthony Bouthier, Teddy Thomas.

Gael Fickou will move from centre to the wing in place of the injured Teddy Thomas for France's decisive Six Nations clash with Ireland in Paris on Saturday.

Racing 92 winger Thomas scored the last of France's five tries in last weekend's 38-21 victory over Wales but has been ruled out of the Ireland game at Stade de France with a hamstring injury.

Fickou shifts out wide in the absence of the clinical Thomas, with Arthur Vincent coming in at centre in the only change from the win over Wales.

Explaining his decision, France head coach Fabien Galthie said: "We know that Jonny Sexton uses his foot to put pressure on our wing. Fickou has this experience to deal with it.

"We had to manage the same thing against Wales. Arthur Retiere is also ready and is on the bench."

France are seeking their first tournament triumph in a decade as they gear up to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

Les Bleus start their final game in Paris a point behind leaders Ireland and level with England, who face Italy in Rome.

"It's quite simple - we have as much chance of winning as England and Ireland," Galthie said. "But above all we try to be consistent. 

"We want consistency. We should not be weighed down with assumptions of what could happen."

Bernard le Roux again partners Paul Willemse at lock after his citing for an allegedly striking Alun Wyn Jones was dismissed by an independent panel.

The game has been given the all clear to go ahead despite French president Emmanuel Macron tightening the country's coronavirus restrictions this week.

Ireland announced their squad on Wednesday, with Robbie Henshaw replacing injured Leinster team-mate Garry Ringrose in their only change.

France: Anthony Bouthier, Vincent Rattez, Virimi Vakatawa, Arthur Vincent, Gael Fickou, Romain Ntamack, Antoine Dupont; Cyril Baille, Julien Marchand, Mohamed Haouas, Bernard Le Roux, Paul Willemse, Francois Cros, Charles Ollivon (captain), Gregory Alldritt.

Replacements: Camille Chat, Jean Baptiste Gros, Demba Bamba, Romain Taofifenua, Dylan Cretin, Baptiste Serin, Arthur Retiere, Thomas Ramos.

Fabien Galthie felt a fearless approach and "solidarity" was the key to his young France side starting his reign with a 24-17 Six Nations win over England

New head coach Galthie put his faith in youth after replacing Jacques Brunel and was rewarded when Les Bleus beat the Rugby World Cup runners-up in his first game in charge on Sunday.

New captain Charles Ollivon scored a try in each half after Vincent Rattez's first Test score, with Romain Ntamack booting nine points from the tee to put France 24-0 up in the rain at a raucous Stade de France.

Jonny May's magnificent double caused a few French nerves in Paris, but England could only muster a bonus point courtesy of Owen Farrell's penalty with the last kick of the game.

England bossed territory and possession but they were frustrated by a combination of 23 handling errors and heroic France defending, new defence coach Shaun Edwards having already clearly made his mark.

Galthie said: "The players won the game, their solidarity won the game.

"When England started to come back on the scoreboard, there was an arm-wrestling contest and we won it, our defence won it.

"But we also scored three tries, which is no small feat against a team like England in these weather conditions.”

Former France captain Galthie added: "We're in a very positive state.

"It's a victory for all the little details put in place and worked on by the coaching staff over the last couple of months.

"Our team is very young, in terms of age and in terms of experience, but we were not scared of making mistakes, we did not think we could be wrong."

Eddie Jones expected to see a brutal display when England travelled to France in the opening round of the 2020 Six Nations – and that is exactly what he got.

The problem for Jones, though, is that his pre-match quote with regards England testing their opponents' readiness for Test rugby came back to bite him. Badly.

Les Bleus were certainly up to the task. Starting a new era under the stewardship of Fabien Galthie and with defensive expert Shaun Edwards part of the coaching staff, they produced a performance that, after a long period rather stuck in the international doldrums, raises the hope they can rise again. England, in contrast, were as flat as a crepe.

"France can expect absolute brutality from England, we are going to go out there to make sure they understand what Test rugby is. It is about being brutal, it is about being physical and it is about dominating the set piece," Jones had said in his pre-match media conference.

Yet after stoking the flames ahead of a clash that rarely needs help to catch fire, his players failed to even do the basics expected of your local junior team.

Their first-half display quickly brought back memories of November's Rugby World Cup final against South Africa, when they suffered a chastening 32-12 defeat that saw an otherwise excellent campaign end in disappointing fashion.

Disappointing would be a generous description for an error-strewn opening 40 minutes at the Stade de France.

England treated the ball as if if harboured a contagious disease. Debutant George Furbank was diagnosed early with a case of the 'dropsies', which was perhaps understandable to a degree. However, the problem even spread as far as the usually reliable Owen Farrell, who failed to hang on to a simple pass in midfield, much to the delight of a raucous French crowd revelling in what they were witnessing.

There was even a penalty given away for failing to mind the gap at a lineout; that is how far things went underground for England.

Still, while the visitors showed all the coordination of a baby giraffe on ice, France produced some slick rugby in slippery conditions to assume total control. They led 17-0 at half-time, while Edwards' fingerprints were all over an aggressive defensive display that stifled England.

Jones may well have been brutal with his half-time assessment of his team's performance in the changing room, though England did not really start to show any fight until the immediate aftermath of Charles Ollivon's second try of the game, as a late challenge on the scorer caused a confrontation with just under an hour gone.

Jonny May – one of the few bright lights for the visitors in a dismal outing – crossed twice to reduce the gap, both fine finishes by the wing that demonstrated what England can deliver when they can build from firm foundations.

In the end, though, time scuppered any hopes of a dramatic comeback. France – who had surrendered a 16-point lead to lose on opening weekend a year ago to Wales – stood firm under late pressure near their own line, forcing Farrell to slot over a penalty with the final kick of the contest just to claim a losing bonus point.

After a stirring rendition prior to kick-off, the home support voiced their approval by singing La Marseillaise one more time in the closing stages of a superb 24-17 triumph.

England must now face the realisation that their Grand Slam prospects for this year are over after 80 minutes. Jones fanned the flames with his words in the media, but this rebooted France team let their rugby do the talking.

Saracens' troubles will not make facing England in the Six Nations any easier, according to France captain Charles Ollivon.

France kick-start their Six Nations campaign against the Rugby World Cup finalists on February 2 at the Stade de France.

Six players who appeared in England's defeat to South Africa in Japan play for Premiership champions Saracens, who will be relegated at the end of the season due to a breach of salary cap rules.

Elliot Daly, Jamie George, Maro Itoje, Mako Vunipola, Billy Vunipola – who will miss the Six Nations due to a broken arm – and captain Owen Farrell are all regulars under Eddie Jones, yet Ollivon is not expecting any uncertainty over their club futures to impact their performances for England.

"You have to remember that England is the second-best team in the world, so I'm not sure whether it is the best time to play against them or not," Ollivon, who has been appointed as France captain for the tournament, told reporters.

"In any case, for us it will be our first game and we want to be able to perform. We want to be there and meet the expectations and get started with the championship.

"We have been preparing for it since the end of the World Cup so we're eager to get on with it."

France's initial 42-man squad includes 19 uncapped players, with coach Fabien Galthie already casting an eye to the 2023 World Cup, which will take place on home soil.

"It's a young team both in terms of age and caps," Galthie said.

"We have a two-fold vision, we have a four-year vision and then we have a shorter-term vision with the England squad for February 2.

"It's a squad that we'll have to quickly gear up to be able to perform and also to be able to raise the bar and the standards."

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