The French management, Annick Hayraud and Samuel Cherouk, had to hold an intense debrief with the players to find out what happened in the opening minutes of the England game, when they left their aggression and spirit in the changing rooms; then what when wrong in the second half.
It was vital to broach these questions because they mustn’t happen again.
This was almost the classic game of two halves. The trouble was, France still lost both of them.
They didn’t finish far behind, but with an opponent of this standard, you have to deliver at 110%. Otherwise you will always finish up on the losing side.
Hayraud reckons her side were lucky to reach half-time only 10-12 down. At least they made the most of their few sorties into the English 22.
But in the second half it was they who panicked close to the English line; it should have been the other way round. Possession was coughed up too easily; it was the tiny individual skills that were lacking.
The squad started this week studying the Italian team’s performance in Cardiff. After the reverse last year (12-31), there could be no question of taking this game lightly.
The team owe themselves a good showing after the efforts they have made in preparation.
It was precisely those opening minutes that Sarah Hunter referred to after the game. She knew her team had to make their mark right from the off. Once you let a French team off the leash, you are all too likely to lose the contest.
And they had concentrated on working out how to survive onslaughts like the ones inflicted on them in a pulsating last quarter. They managed to remain calm, not give away too many penalties and keep the line intact. France’s only score in that period was a Jessy Trémoulière penalty.