Bench came to French rescue, says Le Roux
France 33 United States 9
France were indebted to their replacement players after scoring 21 points in the last 14 minutes to secure a relieving bonus-point World Cup win over the United States in Fukuoka City.
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France were in trouble when Sale Sharks' USA fly-half AJ MacGinty kicked a third penalty after 64 minutes to trim their lead to 12-9. But centre Gael Fickou scored a crucial try two minutes later and replacements Baptiste Serin and Jefferson Poirot went over in the last 10 minutes to clinch a flattering 33-9 win which keeps them in touch with Pool C leaders England.
Second rower Bernard le Roux said: "We got a big surprise in the first half. We thought it was going to be a bit easier but they got stuck in and gave us a tough time at the breakdowns and we didn't get clean ball.
"It was really tough, especially in the first half and the bench did well when they came on.
"They made a big difference, and we got some go-forward and our set-plays opened up play on the outside."
In the end it was mission accomplished, but coach Jacques Brunel will be looking for an improvement when his side take on Tonga on Sunday before meeting Eddie Jones' men on Saturday week for a clash that could determine the group winners.
USA coach Gary Gold believes his side have made strides after their 45-7 defeat by England as the tier two nations continue to narrow the gap on the big guns.
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"I'm incredibly proud of this group of players," Gold said. "I felt we went toe-to-toe.
"We did make some mistakes, and when you play against a team of the French calibre, when you make mistakes they are going to make you pay. But we never gave up the fight, not for the full 80 minutes.
"I'm just so proud of everybody, the reserves made a big difference when they came on, we worked incredibly hard.
"A bit sad we didn't get a try for more on the scoreboard, but just a very, very good performance and really positive.
"The gap is definitely closing quite a lot. If you look back a couple of years ago, a couple of World Cups ago, there were 70, 80-point drubbings for tier ones versus tier twos, but now we are giving ourselves a chance 65 minutes into the game.
"This Rugby World Cup is going to be a big learning curve for us because the more teams we play of this calibre, the French, and Argentina next week, we're going to get better and better."