France routs Samoa 52-8, but counts cost of injuries
TOULOUSE, France (AP) France's emphatic 52-8 win against Samoa gave coach Guy Noves cause for regret, with flyhalf Francois Trinh-Duc breaking his arm and several other players injured in a bruising match on Saturday.
Hardly ideal preparation considering France next faces Australia and New Zealand.
''This match came at a cost for us,'' Noves said. ''That's the big negative point of the night.''
Noves hoped Trinh-Duc can return in time for the Six Nations in February.
''He will need an operation and might need to wear a protective cast,'' Noves said. ''We're sorry for Francois and for (his club) Toulon.''
Prop Jefferson Poirot hurt his shoulder and misses the Australia game, Noves said, adding that flankers Kevin Gourdon (ankle and knee) and Loann Goujon (hip bone) are doubtful. Impressive center Remi Lamerat also picked up a knock.
Injuries overshadowed a rampant, seven-try performance.
Left winger Virimi Vakatawa crossed for a hat trick while the powerful running of center Wesley Fofana was too much for a Samoa side that was overwhelmed.
The other tries were from winger Yoann Huget, flanker Charles Ollivon, replacement center Gael Fickou, and a late penalty try after good work from No. 8 Louis Picamoles.
It was France's fourth win against Samoa in as many matches and its largest, surpassing 43-5 in 2009 and nothing like the 22-14 contest four years ago.
It also followed a 27-0 success away to Argentina in late June, and shows the Tricolors are back in form following a mundane Six Nations.
Samoa's points came from flyhalf Patrick Fa'apale's penalty and center Rey Lee-Lo's try that caught France napping at the start of the second half.
Vakatawa broke into the France team in the Six Nations despite being a contracted sevens player. He does not play for a club in France's elite Top 14, and had not even played since representing France at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in August.
But he showed little signs of rustiness with well-taken tries, two of them in the second half.
''I'm just here to finish things off but it feels good,'' Vakatawa said.
Trinh-Duc came off following a tackle from winger Paul Perez, who was playing at the ground where he plays his rugby for Toulouse.
It was cruel on Trinh-Duc, who regained the No. 10 jersey after inconsistent seasons and being overlooked for last year's Rugby World Cup. His form for Toulon suggested he was getting back to the level that made him an automatic pick for France when it won the 2010 Six Nations Grand Slam and reached the 2011 World Cup final.
The day after his 30th birthday, he orchestrated France's attacks well with his quick hands.
The burly Lamerat, who also came off with a knock at the same time as Trinh-Duc, combined with Fofana in a steely yet creative midfield partnership that looks promising.
Vakatawa got France's first try in the 13th minute, but Fofana was at the heart of everything.
For the second try, he stopped a Samoa counterattack by ripping the ball from back-rower Alafoti Faosiliva, and fed Huget with a pass out of the back of his hand.
France's third was the best, and started with Fofana breaking a tackle deep inside his own half. Lamerat then charged through midfield, and passed to Vakatawa, who burst down the left before being stopped by Perez. After a succession of quick passes to the right, Ollivon crossed for his first international try.
France was rampant, and Fofana almost set up another try but captain Guilhem Guirado fumbled.
It was 26-3 at the break but Samoa started the second half strongly and Lee-Lo crossed for an unconverted try.
The flow was interrupted when France's wounded went off.
Still, the fourth try was not long in coming.
Gourdon broke two tackles and fed Fickou, with scrumhalf Maxime Machenaud adding the extras for 33-8.
Then, Fofana broke a tackle and, despite tumbling forward, still managed to offload a clean pass to fullback Scott Spedding, who set up Vakatawa.
After the penalty try, Vakatawa darted inside to round off a fine performance.
But it will get much harder for injury-hit France against the Wallabies and the All Blacks.