Seemingly world-beaters in the autumn, France face a fight to avoid the wooden spoon in the Six Nations after slumping to a second straight humiliating loss in the tournament on Saturday.
Stunned 23-18 by Italy on the opening weekend, the pre-tournament favorites were sunk 16-6 at home by Wales to show the inconsistency that has plagued so many France teams down the years is alive and well in the current side.
Scotland joined Wales in picking up a first win of the competition, discovering some flair behind the scrum to overwhelm Italy 34-10 at Murrayfield.
It leaves France as the only team without a victory so far and with away matches to come against Ireland and England, it could get a whole lot worse for Philippe Saint-Andre’s men.
“We were flying in November and at the moment it’s very, very tough,” Saint-Andre said. “We are at the bottom of the Six Nations.”
While France were hit by a cacophony of boos from a disgruntled home crowd at the final whistle, Wales were able to celebrate ending an eight-match losing streak stretching back to the final game of last season’s Six Nations — when they clinched the Grand Slam. They could be back in the title reckoning.
“Words cannot describe how much this means. What a fantastic feeling,” Wales fullback Leigh Halfpenny said. “The boys played unbelievably well. We dug deep to get this fantastic win — it’s been a long time coming.”
A dreadful game on a cabbage patch of a pitch at the Stade de France in Paris was enlivened by George North’s 71st-minute try — the only one of the game — when he ran onto Dan Biggar’s chip and barged through Francois Trinh-Duc’s tackle to ground the ball in the left corner.
It was Wales’ one true chance in an error-strewn contest.
“It’s pretty hard to take,” said France captain Thierry Dusautoir, whose team destroyed Australia and Argentina in November last year.
Scotland’s back play has been derided in recent years, so interim coach Scott Johnson would have welcomed the sight of his team scoring four tries in a surprisingly comfortable win over Italy, who failed to reproduce the intensity of their performance against France.
An 80m interception try by fullback Stuart Hogg in the second half was the highlight of the match, adding to other scores by centers Matt Scott and Sean Lamont, and winger Tim Visser.
Greig Laidlaw booted 14 points, kicking all six of his attempts at goal.
“We are really happy with the scoreboard and who wouldn’t be?” said Johnson, brought in last month following the resignation of previous coach Andy Robinson in November last year after an embarrassing home loss to Tonga. “We are in a championship and we want to win the championship.”
Italy were sloppy and failed to match a fired-up Scotland team desperate to make up for their 38-18 loss to England the previous weekend, with their only try coming from flanker Alessandro Zanni late on.
“We played in such an individual way,” Italy coach Jacques Brunel said. “Now we have two weeks to try to understand and come back for the Wales game on Feb. 23.”