France completes perfect year by beating Japan 35-17 in Toulouse

France halfback Maxime Lucu hoists a box kick during their test victory over Japan. Picture: STUFF SPORTS.

France completed a calendar year of test rugby with a perfect winning record for the first time after topping a competitive Japan 35-17 on Sunday.

France’s 10th win in 10 tests and third defeat of Japan this year never looked in doubt after the opening minutes.

The Tricolores dominated up front and steadily built a 21-3 lead by halftime.

Then the rain stopped, the play opened up, and Japan was more comfortable with a dry ball. Both sides added two tries each and Japan joined France in a lap of honour that the packed crowd savoured at Stadium de Toulouse.

The milestone victory also extended France’s year-long record winning streak to 13 tests – including everyone else ranked in the top 10 – and it heads toward the new Rugby World Cup year threatening the men’s world record of 18 straight wins.

The autumn series sweep of Australia, South Africa and Japan on consecutive weekends was scenarioed by France as World Cup knockout matches. It wasn’t entirely successful according to defence coach Shaun Edwards.

“If you’re serious about the World Cup, you have to play extremely well in the quarterfinal, the semifinal and even better in the final, which we didn’t do today,” Edwards said.

“We dropped a level a bit today. We’re going to have to sort that out.”

Still, France celebrated becoming only the third men’s tier one side to achieve a perfect season in the professional era after New Zealand in 2013 and England in 2016.

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