Rugby Union: France's irresistible elan

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France (26) 47 Scotland (13) 20

Benazzi, Leflamand, Tries Tait 2

Tournaire, Magne

Lamaison 3 Cons Shepherd 2

Lamaison 6 Pens Shepherd 2

Sadourny Drop

It started with mumblings of mumbo jumbo, but the final say that France had in the 1997 Five Nations' Championship spoke for itself.

The posts-to-posts score to which Jean-Luc Sadourny applied the finishing French touch at Eden Park, Auckland, three years ago was famously phrased "the try from the end of the earth" by Philippe Saint-Andre. The one that wrapped up a Gallic Grand Slam on French terra firma for the first time on Saturday was similarly out of this world - or out of this hemisphere, at least.

The silver fern-crested jerseys would have puffed out with pride at its sublime creation. From the left, on the 22-metre line, to the far-hand corner; from 9 to 10, to 12, to 13, to 14, inside to 7 and over. It was not so much inter-active rugby by numbers as a masterpiece in the making.

Parc des Princes will never see another try like it, not in the Five Nations at least (the Springboks bring down the curtain before France moves its rugby home next year). The French cockerel would have strutted anyway, the grand prize already assured well beyond any reasonable doubt. But Olivier Magne's try really was something to crow about.

The magnificent Magne was in at the start and the finish, throwing the Scottish cover with a dummy before sprinting diagonally upfield, faster even than the French threequarters, to take the final pass from Laurent Leflamand. It was a glorious fusion of passing and movement, the splendid Sadourny playing a crucial cameo with a decoy dash to the corner flag.

It defined the irresistible elan Pierre Villepreux has instilled in Les Tricolores since forging his coaching partnership with Jean-Claude Skrela. The guru himself saw it in a more pragmatic light. "It is simple," he said. "It is what you must do in modern rugby: run with the ball, keep possession, and run.

"But, then," he added, with a twinkle and a mischievous grin, "we are more conservative than the English." The imagination cannot stretch to Jack Rowell conducting the kind of en masse chorus-line change, more Moulin Rouge than routine rugby, which gave walk-on parts to the four remaining French replacements.

At the start of the championship Magne was on the fringe of his national squad. The Dax flanker did not even make the bench for the French opener in Dublin and he is one of the eight starting XV from Saturday whose names are conspicuously absent from the 300 entered in the 1996-97 international rugby Who's Who annual.

Yet the Magnes of the northern hemisphere will be needed if the gap is to be closed on the southern world-beaters when the Webb Ellis Cup is at stake two years hence. At 23, and with just three caps to place on his distinctive mop, Magne has already been cast as another blond bombshell. And Jean-Pierre Rives, placing hand on heart, could not have identified his prime self with the sheer pace and dynamic mobility he saw in his image on Saturday. Any shirt from 11 to 15 would have sat comfortably on Magne's shoulders.

Such was the French inter-action, Abdel Benazzi stood at the end of the threequarter line and, even with his 17st 6lb to carry, made a more- than-passable impression of a flying wing. Together with Leflamand and the hooker Marc Delmaso (and not Franck Tournaire, who was given original credit), Benazzi joined Magne on the try-scorers' list.

Sadourny landed a sweet drop goal and Christophe Lamaison's right boot struck 24 points with nine-out-of-10 precision, not a bad bonus for a team supposedly bereft of a specialist kicker.

As the champagne flowed in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower yesterday, at a reception screened live on France 2 in the early hours (Olivier Merle even smiled and winked for the camera), you had to say that Les Tricolores had not done badly for a team so hamstrung by injury that only a third of last season's XV were fit for duty on Saturday.

As for Scotland, the role of Les Miserables brought a painful conclusion to a championship campaign of not so much broken dreams as broken records: a Triple Crown of heaviest defeats against Wales, England and France, and only the booby prize of a biggest-ever win against Ireland for consolation.

At least Alan Tait left Paris as top try-scorer of the day. His only other trip to the Parc was as a late-reinforcement replacement 10 years ago. Having travelled alone by ferry and made a mistaken note of the team's hotel, he spent the Friday night going round Paris in circles by taxi. Scotland were left with much the same feeling when Magne touched down on Saturday.

FRANCE: J-L Sadourny (Colomiers); L Leflamand (Bourgoin), C Lamaison (Brive), S Glas (Bourgoin), D Venditti (Brive); D Aucagne (Pau), G Accoceberry (Begles-Bordeaux); D Casadei (Brive), M Dal Maso (Agen), F Tournaire (Narbonne), O Merle (Montferrand), H Miorin (Toulouse), A Bennazi (Agen, capt), F Pelous, O Magne (both Dax). Replacements: R Castel (Beziers) for H Miorin, 49; J-L Jordana (Toulouse) for Tournaire 72; M de Rougemont (Toulon) for Dal Maso, 73; P Bondouy (Narbonne) for Leflamand, 74; U Mola (Dax) for Venditti, 74; P Carbonneau (Brive) for Accoceberry, 76.

SCOTLAND: R Shepherd (Melrose); T Stanger (Hawick), A Tait (Newcastle), G Townsend (Northampton), K Logan (Wasps); C Chalmers, B Redpath (both Melrose); T Smith (Watsonians), G Ellis (Currie), M Stewart (Northampton), G Weir (Newcastle), A Reed (Wasps), R Wainwright (Watsonians, capt), P Walton (Newcastle), I Smith (Moseley). Replacements: D Cronin (Wasps) for Walton, 22; D Hodge (Watsonians) for Chalmers, 51; C Glasgow (Heriot's FP) for Tait, 62.

Referee: E Morrison (England).

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