Six Nations 2017: France and Ireland show cunning to outfox Wales and England

Bob Baker
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Wales prop Samson Lee (right) cracked under the pressure in France (Source: Getty)

Scrum to France, final play, 5m out. France five points ahead and frothing with Gallic trickery. Monstrous prop, Uini Atonio suddenly needs a head injury assessment which sees France return their top tighthead, Rabah Slimani, to the field.

As a prop there is no scenario of greater importance than a defensive scrum 5m from one’s own line. Wales were pressured, substitute prop Samson Lee cracked and he was duly sent off.

Unfortunately for Wales the game wouldn’t go to uncontested scrums as they had their No3, Tomas Francis, on the bench having been previously removed as a tactical change, rather than as an injury replacement.

Read more: Bring on New Zealand, insists England boss Eddie Jones

Approximately 43 scrum resets later, Welsh loosehead Rob Evans, who had not put a foot wrong, was replaced by 22-year-old Nicky Smith, in an extremely oddly timed change on the part of the Welsh management.

Although exhausted, Evans was still holding a firm scrum and it can take a brace of engagements for a fresh prop to find his position, his angles, and his thoughts on how best to outmanoeuvre the corresponding lump of the opposing team.

Smith, thrown into a roaring furnace, had not the luxury of time with which to familiarise himself with Slimani and instead familiarised himself with reverse gear expeditiously.

Moments later, and with the forward momentum emanating from the set-piece, Damien Chouly forced his way over to seal a home victoire.

In one of the oddest sequences of events which saw the game extended past the 100-minute mark, George North bitten – or having decided to bite the inside of his substantial left bicep – the French management revealed themselves as a skulk of wily old foxes.

Like it or not, they worked the system and prevailed.

Best's trickery

Over in Dublin, where Ireland were attempting to prevent England’s Grand Slam, Rory Best showed similar roguish intrigue as he furnished the game’s final line-out with a beautifully lop-sided toss.

With the clock having stepped through the 80 minute mark, the Irish captain knew an illegal throw would mean coming back for a scrum that time could not accommodate.

In symbology, the Celts believed the fox to be a guide, and it was honoured for its wisdom. The plains tribes of North America knew the golden beast as a trickster.

A mixture of the two saw the Celts shown the path past England and, in Paris, the Welsh lured into their own demise. Fine entertainment.

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