If there was ever proof that the previous four years building up to a Rugby World Cup can mean very little once the big show gets underway, it was France, who have been a mess, coming a whisker – or more accurately, Sebastian Vahaamahina’s elbow - away from reaching the semi-finals. Victory in Japan was always a longshot given that les Bleus, even by their standards, have been a basket case over the last four years. France won 36 percent of their matches under Guy Noves before he was dismissed. The former Toulouse maestro has since successfully made the French Rugby Federation pay him 1m Euros in damages, ordered by a labour tribunal. Brunel might have lifted France’s winning percentage to 43 percent but there were more low points – the thrashing France took at Twickenham, losing to Fiji at home – than highs. And yet there they were leading 19-10 at half-time against Wales in Oita, with Virimi Vakatawa free-wheeling his way through tackles, their forwards carrying with purpose, marshaled expertly at half-back by the supremely talent Antoine Dupont. France ran Wales ragged.
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