February 2, 2019 / 10:41 AM / 6 months ago

Rugby - Fragile France suffer from fear of winning

PARIS (Reuters) - While Wales seem to have forgotten how to lose, France appear struck by a fear of winning with Friday’s 24-19 defeat in the Six Nations curtain-raiser the latest example of their capacity for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

Rugby Union - Six Nations Championship - France Captain's Run - National Rugby Center, Marcoussis, France - January 31, 2019 France's Antoine Dupont during the captain's run REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

In last year’s Six Nations, a Johnny Sexton drop goal while the clock was in the red earned Ireland a 15-13 win at Stade de France, while last November the home side conceded a try in stoppage time as South Africa clinched a 29-26 victory in Paris.

At Stade de France on Friday, Les Bleus led 16-0 at halftime but it took them only five minutes to ruin that promising opening half.

Once Wales were back in contention, there was a sense of foreboding about what was to come and a high-risk pass by Sebastien Vahaamahina saw French fans’ worst fears come true.

“We gave them three tries, the last one is on me,” Vahaamahina said.

Former France wing Christophe Dominici said their issues were all in the mind.

“There is a lack of mental preparation in this team,” he said. “One feels that every time they are confronted with a dilemma, they get fragile and shaky.”

Vahaamahina’s error was not isolated.

Yoann Huget, who scored France’s first try, fumbled the ball on the try line attempting to deal with a hopeful kick through and George North pounced to touch down, bringing the visitors within two points.

Then, just after France had regained the lead, Vahaamahina threw a long pass that was intercepted by North, who galloped clear for the winning try.

“We don’t understand,” said flyhalf Camille Lopez. “We’re still wondering how we can lose a match like this. We think about all the points we gave away.”

France next face England at Twickenham and while the defeat to Wales was a blow to their confidence the players tried to take some positives from the game.

“We don’t have the right to lose like this,” said flanker Arthur Iturria.

“This will make us stronger. One day we will be there. Now we have to focus on the England game and go there to cause an upset.”

Writing by Julien Pretot; Editing by Peter Rutherford

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