World Rugby

State Of The Nation: Where France Sits After Two Six Nations Matches

State Of The Nation: Where France Sits After Two Six Nations Matches

After being blasted by Ireland, France was lucky to escape its match against Scotland with a win. Can Les Bleus find a cutting edge they've been missing?

Feb 14, 2024 by Briar Napier
State Of The  Nation: Where France Sits After Two Six Nations Matches

The quality is there in France’s Six Nations squad.

The results haven’t lined up with that quality, however.

Two tricky matchups against Ireland and Scotland to start the competition - one of the best teams in rugby over the past few years and one of the most exciting sides in the world on its day - never were going to be cakewalks, but France definitely was hoping for better, after getting ripped apart by the Irish and being lucky to get a win over the Scots.

Trying to take back the Six Nations title it lost in 2023 to Ireland, France’s hopes of returning to the top of the pecking order took a big blow over the past two weeks, but with a little bit of help and improved form, Les Bleus could be right back in the mix.

The word “could” is doing a lot of heavy lifting in that sentence, however.

Here’s a look at where France stands after its first two Six Nations matches, part of FloRugby’s ongoing coverage and analysis of the Six Nations:


Entering this year’s tournament with hopes to not only top the table, but take the Grand Slam with it, France’s first two weekends in the Six Nations have been anything but convincing.

Missing arguably the best player in the world in Antoine Dupont, who is skipping out on the Six Nations to work with France’s sevens team ahead of this summer’s Paris Olympics, hasn’t helped, but Les Bleus entered 2024 with a point to prove after being eliminated in the quarterfinal round of their home Rugby World Cup last year. 

No such statement performances have happened yet for France in this year’s Six Nations campaign. 

In a titanic clash against Ireland in the opening round in Marseille, a poor France was run off of the park — suffering its heaviest home defeat, 38-17, in the tournament in 110 years — as it badly missed Dupont’s clinical play and leadership, while lock Paul Willemse was sent off in the first half. 

And while France did bounce back to defeat Scotland by a 20-16 margin at Murrayfield, it was not without some serious controversy. 

A brilliant Louis Bielle-Biarrey try (set up by a chip over the Scottish defense) on the left wing and subsequent conversion got France out in front late in the second half, but Les Bleus’ late snatching of victory was overshadowed by Scotland’s near-try at the end of the match. 

A Sam Skinner dive that saw Murrayfield erupt at the prospect of a potential go-ahead score instead was ruled by official Nic Berry to have been held up, and a lengthy TMO review didn’t find the subsequent evidence to rule that Skinner had grounded the ball over the line for five points and the win. 

And thus, France escaped the Scotland match by the skin of its teeth, but in order to get back into Six Nations title contention, it needs help elsewhere and to take care of business more emphatically itself.

What’s Ahead

Sitting in fourth in the table on four points, France at least has a favorable matchup in Round 3, with Italy visiting the Stade Pierre-Mauroy near Lille. The Azzurri have not beaten Les Bleus there in the Six Nations since 2013 and have not defeated them in France in any competition since 1997. 

And while a bonus-point victory is on the table and should be the goal for Fabien Galthie’s men once the Six Nations returns Feb. 24-25, getting it won’t completely solve all of Les Bleus’ problems at the moment. 

For instance, while France did look a bit better against Scotland after being romped over by Ireland, many of the same persistent troubles from the attack and lineout — where France has a new coach in charge of each of those departments — stuck around and gave France trouble at Murrayfield, especially in the first half when Scotland found itself up 13-3 and in the driver’s seat, before squandering chances to build upon its lead in the second half. 

Another major issue for France sprung up after halftime in the Scotland match, as captain and starting No. 8 Gregory Alldritt was taken off on a medical vehicle after a leg injury. 

Some missed time from him could greatly impact France’s composure and confidence, as the La Rochelle man is one of the best at his position in the world, not to mention that he was putting on a man-of-the-match-quality performance against the Scots before being forced out of action. 

France’s Six Nations title hopes are still alive, but only just; at minimum, it probably needs to beat Italy first, then Wales (in Cardiff, no less), while England simultaneously defeats Ireland at Twickenham in Round 4. That way, a likely winner-take-all showdown in Lyon between England and France on the final weekend could take place.

Keys To Success

France doesn’t have two of its best players in Antoine Dupont or Romain Ntamack (who is recovering from a serious knee injury suffered prior to the Rugby World Cup), and their world-class abilities undoubtedly could have helped Les Bleus find a spark against either Ireland and/or Scotland. 

But everyone in the Six Nations is dealing with some level of adjustment, whether that’s England dealing with a swath of injuries and no Owen Farrell (who is out as he takes a break to prioritize his mental health) or Ireland, as it plays its first major international competition since the retirement of all-time scoring leader Johnny Sexton. 

Essentially, it means someone playing right now on the French squad needs to step up and take charge, helping to build cohesion within a roster that doesn’t have some of its major pieces in the mix. 

Though flashes of individual brilliance, such as Alldritt’s barnstorming day pre-injury or Bielle-Biarrey’s wonder try against Scotland have happened, Les Bleus’ all-encompassing performances throughout each of the past two weekends have been far from their strongest; their battering on home soil against Ireland saw them being clearly second-best, whereas their victory at Murrayfield was more of an escape and case of good fortune than a dominant return to good form.

The week-long break will at least give France a bit of time to recuperate and try and shake off the miscues when Italy visits, but right now, France looks at its best when one of the most skilled players pulls a rabbit out of a hat and does something special. However, the issue with that is that one player or moment alone cannot win a country the Six Nations.

A connected team-focused effort and playing a full 80-minute match, which France has failed to do yet in this year’s Six Nations, could serve Les Bleus well if there’s any hope remaining to take back the title. But their hopes are fading fast.