- The bonus point win guarantee’s Phillipe Saint-Andre’s team a place in the final eight
- Freddie Michalak doesn’t miss a kick as France win
- Remy Grosso touches down for Les Bleus on his Test debut
- Canada winger DTH van der Merwe scores his third try in three games during this Rugby World Cup
Freddie Michalak excelled for France kicking 14 points as they displayed in bursts the vibrant, attacking rugby they are renowned for during their bonus point triumph against Canada on Thursday night.
Phillipe Saint-Andre’s side didn’t have it all their way though as a valiant effort from the Maple Leafs exposed France’s on occasion dreary defence to score two tries at StadiumMK.
This win sets up a grandstand finish to Pool D when France take on Ireland in Cardiff a week on Sunday, with the winner taking on Argentina in the quarter-final while the loser has the daunting prospect of facing reigning world champions New Zealand in the final eight.
France got off to a flier when Michalak shovelled an off-load out the side door for Wesley Fofana, with the centre thundering over the line. Further tries from Guilhem Guirado and Rabah Slimani plus three conversions and a penalty from Michalak made up Les Bleus 24 first-half points.
However, with the score being 24-12 at the break the game was closer than many would have expected with Canada running in two tries of their own through winger DTH van der Merwe and Aaron Carpenter. Fly-half Nathan Hirayama converted one of the Canucks two scores to make up their half-time total.
Early in the second-half Hirayama kicked two penalties to bring Canada within six points before Michalak notched a penalty of his own, 27-18.
France then secured the bonus point when second-row Pascal Pape crossed the whitewash before Remy Grosso touched down on his Test debut to add gloss to the scoreline. Michalak converted the first try to take his total for the day to 14 points while replacement Morgan Parra finished the games scoring by converting the final try of the game.
France got off to the perfect start by scoring a converted try after just three minutes. Fly-half Michalak jinked inside Ciaran Hearn, before leaving Phil Mack grasping at thin air and then offloaded to centre Fofana, who knocked off an attempted tackle to dive over.
The number 10 then added the extras confidently before adding a penalty soon after to stretch their lead to 10 points.
And France continued their dominant start to the game with another try just short of the half-hour. This time following a lineout a maul was formed just metres out with Guilhem Guirado being the man to cross the whitewash. Michalak, this time from the touchline, again slotted the ball between the posts, 17-0.
Canada though came straight back at France and when the ball ended up in the hands of van der Merwe there was only going to be one result as the Glasgow Warriors all-time top try-scorer glided through the Les Bleus defence for his third try of this Rugby World Cup. Hirayama then curled over the conversion to add the extras over.
Three minutes later the Canucks were in wonderland as hooker Carpenter drilled his way through a pile of red and blue bodies to touch down. This time, though, Hirayama couldn’t add the extra two points, 17-12.
However, two minutes before the break France crossed the whitewash again when Slimani was able to drive over. Michalak continued his impeccable kicking display with another super conversion to stretch Les Bleus lead to 12 points at half-time, 24-12.
After the break Hirayama kicked two penalties to bring Canada within six points of France before star man Michalak kicked another penalty to push France a little bit clearer.
France then secured the win and the bonus point when Pape caught the Canadian defence off guard in driving his way through and forcing the ball down. And Michalak continued his perfect kicking display by adding a further two points, 34-18.
Despite a valiant effort from Canada, they were undone again when Remy Grosso touched down on his Test debut five minutes from time. With Michalak off the field, Morgan Parra stepped up to kick the conversion, slotting the ball between the posts to bring the curtain down on another entertaining Rugby World Cup match.
What comes next
France next take on Ireland at the Millennium Stadium a week on Sunday in the Pool C decider while Canada will attempt to finish off the bottom of the group by overcoming Romania next Tuesday at the Leicester City Stadium.
Man of the match- Freddie Michalak
Combined with an impeccable kicking performance the fly-half carried the ball superbly with some magical handling skills, which included a phenomenal offload for Les Bleus opening try. The veteran number 10 showed he still is one of the best all-around half-backs in world rugby.