France beat Canada to reach World Cup quarter-finals

Canada, for their part, contributed to the contest with their gung ho approach ultimately making for an entertaining match.

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The Canadians were a joy to watch.

Streaking is alive and well at the Rugby World Cup. “They’ve got just about their strongest team out there”.

Canada were also tactically astute in the way they used their forward runners, varying the carrier and often finding the path of least resistance in the collisions.

Excellent as they were in attack, though, the French looked porous in defence. The discontent spoke volumes for pressure that France were feeling.

France coach Philippe Saint-Andre will be pleased with a fifth straight win, but will be seeking answers as to why his team switched off in the first half.

The Canadians struck back nearly immediately.

And they were rewarded when Carpenter barged over from close range after a ruck.

France were three-quarters of the way to the winning bonus point by the interval, leading 24-12, but each of those tries owed as much to basic, frustrating faults of their opponents as anything the favourites mustered.

The French appeared to be in complete control at 17-0 after tries from centre Wesley Fofana and hooker Guilhem Guirado, but Canada rallied with two quick tries.

It took just four minutes for Canada to score a second when Aaron Carpenter crossed the line after Kyle Gilmour was held up.

Hirayama missed the conversion this time but at 17-12 the crowd had come alive.

Having seen their 17-point advantage whittled down to five, France went back to the driving maul to pile over and restore a few order with prop Rabah Slimani the man to emerge with the ball.

France’s 12-point half-time lead was halved by the concession of two terribly soft penalties, which Hirayama punished with six points within 15 minutes of the restart, but they were unable to push any further and found themselves swamped for the last quarter. It was impossible not to admire the Canucks’ moxie, particularly the vision that their fizzing scrumhalf Mack brought to the game.

A woeful first-half performance provoked the 48-year-old former France captain into a dressing-room rant during the break which was caught on camera. Remy Grosso’s try on debut and a beautifully struck touchline conversion by Morgan Parra against a 14-man Canada at this point was bordering on the heartless.

It did that against Italy last weekend and on Thursday, it gave France all it could handle before losing 41-18 in Milton Keynes, England.

Michalak, who resumes his halfback partnership with Toulon team-mate Sebastien Tillous-Borde that Saint-Andre prefers, should garner the three points he requires to pass Thierry Lacroix’s World Cup points national record of 124.

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Their left wing DTW Van Der Merwe stands second behind Mike Brown in the “yards made” category, and he made it three tries in three games when he concluded a superb move that had started with Ciaran Hearn regathering a kick-off at full pace.

Rugby Union World Cup tour with Keith McLean