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Rugby | Six Nations

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France coach lauds defensive display

France coach Jacques Brunel praised his team's defensive performance after Les Bleus claimed a gritty 22-16 victory over England in the Six Nations on Saturday.

France missed only two tackles in the first half as they defended aggressively to snatch a morale-boosting win against their arch-rivals, two weeks after victory over Italy snapped an eight-match winless streak.

Scrumhalf Maxime Machenaud crunched Elliot Daly in a jaw-dropping tackle in the first half and the team's cast-iron defence only cracked in the closing stages when Jonny May scored England's try.

"Our defence was remarkable," Brunel told a news conference after his fourth game in charge.

"We knew that the physical challenge would be key. We defended well and we always went forward."

France were superior at the breakdown, an area where England also suffered when they lost to Scotland in their previous game.

"We needed to be good at the breakdown, and maybe they were not used to be bothered in that area," said Brunel.

"If they are free in that zone, it becomes complicated for their opponents."

"The way we defended, I had never seen that," said wing Remy Grosso, who was named man of the match.

"It's a very big moment, it's a big emotion to beat England."

France, who had lost nine of their last 11 Six Nations games against England, are third in the standings behind England on points difference, but the title went to Ireland after their 28-8 victory over Scotland.

"I am proud of the group's mindset. Like I said on Friday this match is different and even if winning will not make us win the championship, it makes the coin flip on the positive sign," France captain Guilhem Guirado said.

If they beat Wales in Cardiff next Saturday, France will need to improve in the lineouts after losing several against England, and in the scrum, where they were often penalised.

"We suffered in the lineouts because they had targeted Yacouba (Camara), who is one of the top ball catchers, so we will need to correct that," Guirado said.


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