France secured their third consecutive victory at the 2015 Rugby World Cup with an entertaining 41-18 win over a plucky Canada side in Milton Keynes. Philippe Saint-Andre's side ran in five tries through Wesley Fofana, Guilhem Guirado, Rabah Slimani, Pascal Pape and debutant Remy Grosso and now top Pool D with 14 points ahead of Ireland's meeting with Italy on Sunday.
Les Bleus took just four minutes to get off the mark, with the quickest try of the tournament so far scored by Fofana after the intelligent Frederic Michalak had spotted a gap in midfield and broke through a poor tackle attempt from Doug Wooldridge before racing forward and providing a timely offload to the Clermont centre.
A successful penalty attempt then saw Michalak overtake Thierry Lacroix as France's leading World Cup points scorer with 124 and he was so nearly the architect of another try soon afterward as he cut inside veteran lock Jamie Cudmore and produced an exquisite chip on the angle that Fofana failed to take cleanly despite the favourable bounce. Undeterred, the three-time finalists continued to move forward and extended their lead when hooker Guirado flopped over from the back of a maul.
Canada could understandably have allowed their heads to drop at this stage, but instead they hit straight back as a superb aerial take from Ciaran Hearn set up a good attacking position as Phil Mackenzie burrowed forward for extra yardage. The ball was recycled quickly from the ensuing ruck before reaching DTH Van der Merwe on the left flank and he showed typically quick feet to ease past Brice Dulin and across the line for his third try in as many matches.
Not content with a mere consolation, the lively Canucks went for the jugular once again and a bold attacking approach paid dividends as a second try in just three minutes arrived through Aaron Carpenter. A collective groan rang around the Stadium mk as blindside flanker Jamie Gilmour looked to have thrown away the chance by not passing to Mackenzie on the overlap, but the move was kept alive and culminated in the hooker eventually diving over. The conversion was missed, and a thoroughly entertaining first half was capped off as France scored their third try of the evening through prop Rabah Slimani.
The second 40 was a slightly more settled affair, with Canada reducing the deficit to just six points before another successful Michalak kick and a try from Pascal Pape made things more comfortable. With a bonus point already in the bag, Remy Grosso, the Castres wing drafted in as a replacement for the injured Yoann Huget, then marked his first senior international cap in style as he finished in the corner following good work from half-back replacements Morgan Parra and Remi Tales.
Ultimately the scoreline was a little unfair on the tier two nation given their rousing effort, but France will be content to head into their crucial clash against Ireland in Cardiff on 11 October with an unblemished record. That fixture is likely to decide who will play reigning champions New Zealand in the quarter-finals, providing the All Blacks negotiate their remaining pool ties against Georgia and Tonga.