“Grand Slam of the Six Nations”: France shocked the fans with a brilliant triumph

There is a billboard from the 1990s that is fondly remembered in both England and France.

In the background is the cross of St. George: “1966 was a great year for English football,” the text begins.

“Eric was born,” he concludes as Manchester United maverick Cantona stares sullenly into the distance from the foreground.

The winners of the French Grand Slam danced amid telegrams, pyrotechnics and the roar of Eurodisco, and this needs to be clarified: 1998 was a great year for the French sport when Cameron was born.

Cameron Waukey’s second row was right in the middle of the post-match turmoil following Saturday’s victory over England. Just like he was at the center of everything else for France during the Six Nations.

The 23-year-old is the archetype of the modern striker with long limbs, nimble hands and bottomless energy.

He was born in Saint-Denis, in the shadow of the national stadium, four months after another French team was galloping around the field, drinking champagne and adulation.

In 1998 it was Zidane, Desailly, Barthez and the rest. The football team that coined the term “black blanc beur” to sum up their cosmopolitan mix.

In the same year, they lit the Arc de Triomphe in honor of their victory in the World Cup. Millions of people gathered on the Champs Elysees to celebrate this event.

This time, the final whistle was different. Not yet. But when the car horns wailed deep into the night, and the songs spilled through the lobby and through the streets, the spirit was the same.

France will host the 2023 Rugby World Cup in 18 months. And this Parisian spring seems to be the moment when the public fell head over heels in love with their national team.

It was built all day before the start at 21:00 local time.

On the morning newsstands, L’Equipe’s headline was “Operation Grand Slam,” and its lead writer implored the class of 2022 to end the wait for a Six Nations clean sweep that had dragged on like an eternity since their last in 2010.

The lunchtime television programs featured a behind-the-scenes documentary of the team’s journey to the brink of fame.

Three hours before the start of the match, queues of fans snaked at the entrance gate.

The wait was worth it. France shone under the lights. They were faster in mind and muscle than the British. They bristled with menace and cunning whenever space opened up. They could, and maybe should have scored more than three attempts. The final pass was not always given, sometimes the wrong option was chosen.

But they were so far ahead of their opposition that they didn’t have to be perfect. England, faced with a defense built by Englishman Sean Edwards, a former Wales defense coach, ran out of ideas, even if they never lost heart.

There was one moment near the end of the first half when Henry Slade sallyed on the blind side, found himself outnumbered and, for lack of a better plan, rushed into contact.

Cameron Voki is part of a golden generation of young French players who won consecutive 2018 and 2019 U20 World Championship titles.

A tidal wave of blue-shirted defenders duly swallowed him up and spat him out.

The game was almost over after only an hour. DuPont, a bundle of fast-twitch fibers and an even faster brain, had English tacklers clinging to his tails as he danced under the poles.

The win put France in second place in the world rankings, overtaking New Zealand, whom they beat in another electrifying night. back in November.

This victory over the All Blacks is part of an eight Test winning streak. With the only team above them in the standings – world champions South Africa – having lost four of their last seven games, France can claim to be the true leader of the international game.

They certainly have their best player. Captain du Pont was named World Player of the Year in December and his standards remain sky-high.

He was born into a peasant family in the traditional heart of rugby in the southwest of the country and followed the well-trodden traditional path to the national team.

He is the obvious face of this French side. But like the winners of the 1998 World Cup, there is more than one face in the foreground and more than one story in the background.

Voki, cameraman Demba Bamba and center Jonathan Danti took a shorter but less traveled route from the high-rise suburbs of Paris to the Stade de France.

Striker Gabin Villiers, from Normandy in the northwest of France, where until recently there was rugby desert, has played sevens in the past. Full back Melvin Jaminet played in the second tier.

Damian Penot and Romain Ntamak followed in the footsteps of their fathers, both footballers of the French national team.

Paul Willemse and Wini Atonio left their ancestral lands, arriving in France and a team from South Africa and South Auckland respectively.

France
France and their fans recreate the Viking thunder

They were all there when Tannoy’s volume went down in celebration on the field. When the team jumped over the billboards and evoked memories of yet another part of the Stade de France football past.

Together they met with their fans and, like Iceland at Euro 2016, they celebrated victory by clapping their hands. Slow to fast. And then faster and faster. But always together as one.

This unity, this diversity is leading this French team to 2023 and even more history. Right now they are not missing anything.

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