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France savour glorious Six Nations success

The French rugby renaissance has reached the next stage: Les Tricolores are the kings of Europe once again.

France won the Six Nations for the first time in 12 years by beating England 25-13 to complete the Grand Slam on Saturday.

And it was achieved in a febrile atmosphere at the Stade de France, the venue in northern Paris where the French will look to win sport’s ultimate prize next year: The Rugby World Cup.

“We are lucky to have a fantastic group of players,” France coach Raphael Ibanez said.

“I would recommend they keep their feet on the ground. It’s a major step for our team but there is more to come. We can still improve our game.”

France scored three tries, none more important than the final one scored in the 61st minute by Antoine Dupont — the world player of 2021 — that pushed his team back into a 12-point lead after England reduced the gap to 18-13 after a fast start to the second half.

It eased the pressure on the French in the final quarter as they clinched their first piece of rugby silverware since the Six Nations in 2010 to the backdrop of the home fans singing “La Marseillaise”.

It was a sixth title of the Six Nations era (since 2000) for France, and a record-tying fourth Grand Slam in that period.

It marked the next step in France’s evolution under coach Fabien Galthie, who took over after the 2019 Rugby World Cup and led the team to second-place finishes in the past two years.

A big win over the All Blacks in November gave the French the favourite’s tag heading into the Six Nations and they embraced it, with the win over England seeing them finish a point above Ireland.

The English finished third, an improvement on last year’s fifth place but one unlikely to ease the pressure on coach Eddie Jones after a second straight championship in which they lost three games..

It is, though, probably fair of where England are amid a transitional phase under.

“I know we’ve got the team for it,” England captain Courtney Lawes said.

“We just need to be more clinical.”

With remarkable ruck speed and a feisty defence — orchestrated by an English coach, Shaun Edwards — that created five turnovers, France produced a strong first-half display to lay the platform for victory.

A penalty from fullback Melvyn Jaminet was followed by a 15th-minute Gael Fickou try.

A couple of penalties kept England close before a converted Francois Cros try opened up a 12-point gap — 18-6– at haltime.

England started the second half and Freddie Steward crossed for the visitors’ lone try.

But Dupont ensured there would be no late nerves when he scored beside the posts to get the French celebrations started.

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