Special correspondent in Cardiff

Of course, there are always those Welsh choirs to give the thrill at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. But this time, it was more out of patriotic fervor than out of real conviction. The many supporters of the XV du Poireau who met in the hours preceding the match had few illusions, all predicting a success for the Blues. A lack of hope supported by the performances of their national team in the Tournament for three years: only two victories in 13 matches. The aging terrors have given way to Red Imps who now see the threat of the wooden spoon looming, the Blues, this Sunday, having inflicted on them a fourth defeat in this 2024 edition.

A 45 to 24 success on a scale which does not say everything about the difficulties of the Blues, also rejuvenated, in overcoming the “brave” Welsh (dixit Galthié). It was indeed necessary to wait until the 65th minute, and a try with brute force from novice George-Henri Colombe, for the XV of France to definitively take the lead in the score (24-30). And a twist of fate to make the break four minutes later, Romain Taofifenua countering a clearance and going to flatten it in the Welsh goal (24-37). In stoppage time, Maxime Lucu, taking over from a remarkable Nolann Le Garrec for his first start, will score a fifth and final try to increase the score and give relief to the tricolor awakening.

But, at half-time, Alldritt and his partners led by a fraction, 17-20, the two teams going blow for blow, the Welsh taking advantage of the defensive generosity of the third line or the Ramos-Depportère duo. Worse still, just after the break, another ball from the rearguard and third try from the XV du Poireau which went back in front with the score (24-20). For the last time in the match. The return of the French bench proved decisive. Weight, desire, experience to sign the Blues’ fifth victory in a row against Wales since their elimination in the quarter-finals of the 2019 World Cup.

The four boys in the wind recital was eagerly awaited. And it was Nolann Le Garrec, first tenure (but 4th selection), who burst onto the screen. The young scrum half from Racing 92 imposed his tempo, his liveliness and his alternation to be elected man of the match. Up front, the Toulouse second row, Emmanuel Meafou, showed his power. Just like La Rochelle pillar Georges-Henri Colombe who honored his first selection by coming off the bench. A surplus of power which finally exhausted the Welsh. The first from Parisian full-back Léo Barré was less convincing. Although he was reliable on aerial balls, his defensive positioning was faulted several times.

Highly anticipated, not to say shouted for, the captain of the U20 world champions, Nicolas Depoortère, was the least convincing of the novices. The Welsh took full advantage of the defensive generosity of the UBB center. Who, ball in hand, has never managed to make the difference. It is, obviously, worth revisiting. To show that it is better than this first crossed out copy.

He was the most controversial of the survivors. Gaël Fickou responded to criticism by playing a fierce game, uncompromising in defense (14 tackles, no misses), determined in attack and rewarded with a try. Thomas Ramos, propelled to the opening, was also decisive, both in his role as facilitator – a first in 10 from the kick-off with the blue jersey – and in that of scorer with only one failure, in stoppage time, for eight successful attempts and 20 points on the clock. Which allows him to cross the bar of 300 points registered with the French team. Up front, the captains, captain Grégory Alldritt and the returning Julien Marchand and Thibaud Flament in the lead, showed the way forward. Reassuring their young teammates. To, all together, return to success after the pitiful draw against Italy (13-13). A recovery to be confirmed next Saturday in Lyon against England. A test on a whole new level.