Rugby: Negative result, but positive thinking for France after England defeat in Six Nations

Maro Itoje (C) of England scores a try.
Maro Itoje (C) of England scores a try.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

LONDON (REUTERS) - France let a long-awaited Six Nations win at Twickenham and their Grand Slam hopes slip from their grasp in a 23-20 last-gasp defeat against England on Saturday (March 13), but they sought consolation in the prospect of a possible championship title.

Les Bleus were 20-16 ahead with just over four minutes left on the clock when Maro Itoje bundled over to score a try that was awarded by the TMO and converted by Owen Farrell.

Gone were the hopes of a first French away win against England in the championship since 2005, while their 11-year wait for a Grand Slam will go on at least another 12 months.

Yet Fabien Galthie's side, who have 10 points like England, could still win the Six Nations if they beat leaders Wales, on 19 points, and Scotland in their last two matches at home.

"There is a bit of disappointment after all we invested in this game, but we still have our fate in our own hands," captain Charles Ollivon told a news conference.

"We still grabbed one (defensive bonus) point and we have two games at home to play. We need to think positive, we're not giving up."

France once again showed their brilliance as they opened a 17-13 halftime lead courtesy of a superb try by Damian Penaud.

Yet, as Ollivon noted, they "made mistakes under pressure" in the second half as England's replacements appeared to make a difference while Galthie left the likes of flanker Anthony Jelonch and scrumhalf Baptiste Serin on the bench.

"We're going to learn from this," Galthie told a news conference.

"Sometimes we got too carried away and it cost us energy and points. But I want to be positive. I'm proud of the players."

Galthie and Ollivon dismissed claims that the players' lack of match practice - after their game against Scotland was postponed when the squad was hit by an outbreak of Covid-19 - explained France's disappointing finale.

"The English were also tired, at the end of the first half," said Ollivon, while Galthie explained that "there was not a lot of rhythm" in the second half.

Earlier, former France scrumhalf Dimitri Yachvili, who scored all their points in their last Six Nations win (18-17) at Twickenham in 2005, told French television: "It's not the English who finished better, it's France who didn't finish well. Nothing can compensate for the lack of match practice."