France coach Didier Deschamps claimed "it's not as bad as 2021" after Les Bleus discovered their Euro 2024 group-stage opponents.

Deschamps' team were drawn into Group D during Saturday's draw in Hamburg.

France will face Austria, the Netherlands – who they beat twice in qualifying – and one of Poland, Wales, Finland or Estonia.

Les Bleus disappointed at the delayed Euro 2020 in 2021, going out to Switzerland on penalties in the last 16.

That was after they edged through a challenging group which included Hungary, Germany and Portugal.

"It's going to be difficult," Deschamps told TMC.

"The pot three team we'll be facing is the Netherlands. We won both our games against them [in qualifying] but it makes our group harder.

"We also faced Austria during the latest Nations League campaign and it was far from easy. We don't know yet our last opponent. But it's a difficult group.

"It's not as bad as in 2021. But we need to be ready from the start. If everything goes our way, we may able to manage our third game, it will be for the best."

France thrashed 10-man Gibraltar 14-0 in Nice for a record international win to close in on a top seed for Euro 2024.

Les Bleus had already qualified as winners of Group B, and showed no signs of letting up against Gibraltar – who scored an early own goal before defender Ethan Santos was shown a red card for a late tackle on 17-year-old debutant Warren Zaire-Emery.

Following the red card for Santos, who had put the ball in his own net after just three minutes, France were relentless, with Kylian Mbappe scoring a hat-trick, Kingsley Coman netting twice and substitute Olivier Giroud hitting a late brace.

Paris St Germain midfielder Zaire-Emery had set a new record as France’s youngest post-war debutant, aged 17 and 255 days.

France were soon on the offensive and raced into a 2-0 lead, both own goals, inside the first five minutes.

Jonathan Clauss got clear down the right and cut the ball back across the six-yard box where Santos stabbed it into his own net.

Before Gibraltar could regroup, they fell further behind.

As goalkeeper Dayle Coleing saved Antoine Griezmann’s shot, the rebound looked to have gone in off Aymen Mouelhi with Marcus Thuram close behind him. The Inter Milan forward was later credited with the goal.

France, aiming to seal their place as one of the five top seeds in Germany next summer, continued to press, with Mbappe firing over.

Zaire-Emery then clipped home a cross from Coman at the near post to become France’s second youngest international scorer after Maurice Gastiger in 1914.

The teenager took a blow to his ankle from Santos when tucking the ball home. English referee John Brooks was advised by VAR to take a review of the over-the-top challenge on the pitchside monitor, which resulted in a red card for the Gibraltar defender.

France were taking no risks with Zaire-Emery, who was swiftly substituted in the 20th minute and replaced by Youssouf Fofana.

On the half-hour mark, a VAR review saw France given a penalty for handball by Lee Casciaro. Mbappe knocked the spot-kick in off the post to make it 4-0.

It was relentless stuff from the hosts, who scored three more within as many minutes through Clauss’ powerful strike, then Coman knocked a loose ball in before Fofana drove a low shot under bewildered Gibraltar keeper Coleing.

Gibraltar made it to half-time without further damage and then held out through the hour mark despite soaking up plenty of pressure from France, who sensed the chance of a record win.

Adrien Rabiot shot home a loose ball in the 63rd minute, with Coman then getting his second for number nine.

Gibraltar’s heaviest loss was confirmed when substitute Ousmane Dembele added a 10th goal for France, who soon secured a record win when Mbappe knocked in an 11th from close range with 15 minutes left.

Olivier Giroud stepped off the bench to drill a low shot into the far corner – but after a lengthy VAR review and check of the monitor by the referee, the goal was ruled out for offside.

France, though, soon had a 12th when Mbappe clipped in a wonderful chip over a backpedalling Coleing from 30 yards to complete his hat-trick.

Giroud drilled the ball in after a chest down from Griezmann, which this time did count. The AC Milan forward swiftly rifled home another in stoppage time as France eclipsed Germany’s record European Championship qualifying win over San Marino in September 2006.

France forward Kylian Mbappe is backing Paris St Germain midfielder Warren Zaire-Emery to become a future international star ahead of the visit of Gibraltar in Saturday’s Euro 2024 qualifier.

France are heavy favourites to make it seven wins from seven when they face Gibraltar at the Allianz Riviera and have all-but qualified for Euro 2024, while only conceding one goal so far in the qualifying phase.

Zaire-Emery, 17, is set to make his international debut after an impressive start to the Ligue 1 campaign, where he has scored two goals and claimed two assists in 11 appearances so far.

Mbappe, who made his debut in 2017 at the age of 18, has tipped his club team-mate to go far.

He told a press conference, as quoted on “He is fascinating. He is already very mature and he plays with a lot of personality.

“He is a modern midfielder, who isn’t scared of going forward with the ball. What we have to do is accompany him. I don’t have any advice to give him because he is learning very quickly and on his own.

“Seventeen years old, it’s the same age as my brother (Ethan Mbappe), it’s mad. I’m not old, but it makes me feel a bit old! The guy arrives and does his homework.”

Mbappe was heavily linked with a move away from PSG in the summer but has enjoyed a bright start to the season with 15 goals to his name across all competitions so far.

The 24-year old insists he plays in different roles compared to club and country and demands the best of himself every game.

He continued: “I’m a player who’s very demanding of himself, so when I find that demand from my coaches then I’m very happy.

“I don’t need my manager to tell me I’m the best player in the world every day.

“(France head coach Didier) Deschamps is all about adapting to opponents, which means I’m a different player. That allows me to broaden my range. I can still improve and broaden my range.

“Here, the coach gives me total freedom on the left flank. (PSG boss) Luis Enrique gives me more structure. I’m adapting to all these schemes and with the two great coaches I have, it’s in my interest to listen to them.”

South Africa hooker Bongi Mbonambi has accused England of being “unprofessional” over allegations that he racially abused Tom Curry during last month’s Rugby World Cup semi-final.

World Rugby found “insufficient evidence” to back up Curry’s claim that he was called a “white c***” by the Springboks player midway through the first half of the match in Paris.

Mbonambi said the “misunderstanding” arose because Curry failed to realise he was speaking Afrikaans, a common practice among the Springboks to ensure opponents do not understand their messages.

He told BBC Sport Africa: “I think it is a very sad thing when you live in a first world country (England), you think the rest of the world speaks English.

“It was unprofessional on their part. They could have gone on a website and looked for an English dictionary and looked for the word in Afrikaans.

“People understood (in South Africa), but obviously their side was misunderstood.”

World Rugby stressed that Curry made the allegation in good faith and added there was no suggestion that it was “deliberately false or malicious”.

Both players have been subjected to online abuse since the alleged incident, with Curry’s club, Sale Sharks, saying they were “disgusted” by some of the criticism aimed at Curry.

Reigning champions South Africa take on fellow three-time winners New Zealand in Saturday’s Rugby World Cup final.

Here, the PA news agency picks out five of the standout matches of a memorable tournament in France.

Wales 32 Fiji 26 – Pool C, September 10

The opening weekend served up a full-bodied thriller in Bordeaux. Watched by the Prince of Wales, Warren Gatland’s side established a 32-14 lead following tries from Josh Adams, George North, Louis-Rees-Zammit and Elliot Dee. Yet ferocious Fiji roared back to leave Wales royally rattled. Late scores from Josua Tuisova and Mesake Doge, added to earlier efforts from Waisea Nayacalevu and Lekima Tagitagivalu, moved the Islanders within striking distance. Semi Radradra had the chance to grab the crowning glory but heartbreakingly knocked on with Wales’ try line at his mercy in the final act of an absorbing contest staged in stamina-sapping heat.

South Africa 8 Ireland 13 – Pool B, September 23

Ireland propelled themselves to the cusp of the quarter-finals with a gripping victory over the 2019 champions on a raucous evening in Paris. Mack Hansen’s try and five points from Johnny Sexton helped settle a titanic tussle between international rugby’s top two teams at a rocking Stade de France. Cheslin Kolbe’s second-half score and a Manie Libbok penalty kept the Springboks in contention. But they ultimately fell short following a nail-biting finale as Jack Crowley’s penalty helped Ireland stretch their winning run to 16 matches to take control of the tournament’s toughest group.

Fiji 23 Portugal 24 – Pool C, October 8


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Portugal made history by pulling off a dramatic shock victory. Rodrigo Marta’s try two minutes from time allowed the superb Samuel Marques to kick the winning conversion and secure his country’s first World Cup win at the eighth attempt. Amid passionate Portuguese celebrations, Fiji’s players slumped to the turf at full-time but still scraped through to a quarter-final with England courtesy of a losing bonus point which condemned Australia to a first pool-stage exit. Having already been eliminated, Os Lobos had little to lose in Toulouse. Marta’s late intervention added to efforts from Raffaele Storti and Francisco Fernandes on a landmark afternoon after heavy favourites Fiji appeared to have avoided an upset thanks to tries from Levani Botia and Mesake Doge, plus 13 points from Frank Lomani.

Ireland 24 New Zealand 28 – Quarter-final, October 14

Ireland’s dream was crushed as their quarter-final curse continued with a heartbreaking defeat. Andy Farrell’s class of 2023 were bidding to become the first Irish team to reach the last four. But they trailed for most of an engrossing Paris contest and were unable to mastermind a comeback as the formidable All Blacks overcame yellow cards for Aaron Smith and Codie Taylor to send Ireland captain Johnny Sexton into retirement. Scores from native Kiwis Bundee Aki and Jamison Gibson-Park and a penalty try kept Farrell’s men within touching distance for the duration of a tense encounter. However, New Zealand underlined their rugby pedigree, with Leicester Fainga’anuku, Ardie Savea and the prolific Will Jordan crossing to pave the way for progression to a semi-final showdown with Argentina.

France 28 South Africa 29 – Quarter-final, October 15


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Hosts France crashed out in agonising fashion following a quarter-final classic for the ages. Just 24 hours after New Zealand’s thrilling victory over Ireland, Stade de France staged an epic encounter which somehow eclipsed it for drama and scintillating rugby. With Les Bleus captain Antoine Dupont returning from a fractured cheekbone, the two sides shared six tries in an opening 26 minutes seemingly played in fast-forward. Hooker Peato Mauvaka crossed between tries from prop Cyril Baille for France, while Springboks trio Kurt-Lee Arendse, Damian de Allende and Kolbe were also on the scoresheet. Eben Etzebeth claimed the only try of a tighter second period to suck the life out of the partisan Paris crowd, with Kolbe’s inspired first-half charge down of a Thomas Ramos conversion proving critical.

Brodie Retallick has won the vote to start in the second-row for New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup final against South Africa.

Retallick comes in for Sam Whitelock in the only change from the All Blacks side that overpowered Argentina 44-6 in the semi-final last Friday.

Whitelock replaced Retallick against Argentina but now moves to the bench for Saturday’s final at the Stade de France in Paris.

The 35-year-old Whitelock will become the first man to play in three World Cup finals, should he come off the bench.

Tight-head prop Nepo Laulala replaces Fletcher Newell on the All Blacks bench.

Brothers Scott, Jordie and Beauden Barrett all feature in the starting XV, which openside flanker Sam Cane captains.

The All Blacks, like South Africa, are chasing a record fourth title after triumphs in 1987, 2011 and 2015.

South Africa have condemned the death threat received by scrum-half Cobus Reinach ahead of Saturday’s Rugby World Cup semi-final against England.

Montpellier player Reinach was targeted on social media in the wake of his country’s 29-28 quarter-final victory over hosts France.

Springboks director of rugby Rassie Erasmus highlighted the abuse directed at the 33-year-old by posting a screen grab on his X account.

South Africa assistant coach Mzwandile Stick, who said Reinach is in a “good space”, praised the security levels at the tournament and believes the matter is being handled by the French authorities.

“We’re well aware of the situation with Cobus and his family,” Stick said on the eve of facing England in Paris.

“We don’t have a place for hooligans in our game. The players do their job to make sure they represent their country and we are here to represent South Africa.

“If somebody has got a problem with that, I think the French authorities will have to deal with that.

“But from our side, we’ll make sure we protect each other: our players, management, everyone involved.

“We don’t have a place for that in the game. You win some, lose some as part of the game.

“Whoever sent that message to the player, I’m really disappointed about that.

“We’ll keep doing everything in our powers to make sure we make our people proud at home.

“Regarding the situation, I think it’s well handled now by the French authorities.”

Reinach, who played for Northampton between 2017 and 2020, will start against Steve Borthwick’s side at the Stade de France as part of an unchanged South Africa line-up.

The message sent to him, translated from French, read: “Dirty son of a b****. I hope that when you return to Montpellier you get murdered by French people on the ground. Gang of thieves. Easy to win a title by cheating.”

Many France supporters criticised the performance of the match officials following their elimination at the hands of the Springboks, while Les Bleus captain Antoint Dupont suggested referee Ben O’Keeffe was not “up to the level of the game”.

Asked how Reinach is feeling, Stick replied: “He’s proper. I’ve seen him every day.

“He’s in a good space, he’s got his family around him.

“In our camp, we must also give credit to the French security around our hotels. With all the teams, the security is just another level.

“I don’t think at the moment there is something to worry about because we know for sure we are well protected in our camps.”

England, Scotland, Spain, France, Portugal, Turkey, Belgium and Austria all secured their places at Euro 2024 in the latest round of qualifying fixtures.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at what still to be resolved in November and the play-offs.

Group A

Scotland and Spain have both qualified for the finals, but top spot remains up for grabs.

Spain head to Cyprus and then host Georgia, while Scotland face a trip to Tbilisi before welcoming Norway to Hampden Park – where the Tartan Army are expected to revel in a Euro 2024 qualification party.

Georgia are set to go into the play-offs based on their Nations League ranking as a group winner.

Norway are one of several countries who will have to wait on all the other results to see if they can make the cut as one of 12 teams split through three paths.

Group B

While France have qualified automatically for the finals as group winners, the Netherlands still have work to do.

The Dutch edged past Greece with a stoppage-time penalty from captain Virgil van Dijk on Monday night – and victory over the Republic of Ireland in Amsterdam will secure a top-two finish.

Greece, though, could also still reach Euro 2024, having already been assured of a place in the play-offs.

Indeed because of UEFA’s complex weighted system based on overall Nations League rankings, the Republic are still not theoretically out of the running to be involved in the play-offs in March – and could even see their slim hopes boosted by a loss in Amsterdam on November 18 if other results also fall into place.

Group C

England’s 3-1 win over Italy at Wembley on Tuesday night saw them qualify with two matches left.

Italy are third, but qualification remains in their own hands if they can beat North Macedonia.

The Azzurri would then edge out Ukraine to the runners-up spot should they go on to avoid defeat in the final group game between the two countries in Leverkusen on November 20.

Italy are also assured of place in the play-offs should it be needed.

Group D

Turkey have secured qualification, but the race to join them looks set to go to the wire.

Wales will if they beat Armenia in Yerevan and Croatia suffer an unexpected defeat away to Latvia.

Armenia, though, are still not out of the mix, sitting just three points behind Wales and Croatia with two games left.

Qualification could all hinge on the very last round of fixtures – which sees Wales host Turkey in Cardiff and Croatia play Armenia in Zagreb on November 21.

However, Croatia are assured of at least a play-off spot if they do not qualify automatically.

Group E

In another tight group, leaders Albania, the Czech Republic, Poland and even Moldova can all still qualify.

Albania will qualify if they avoid defeat by Moldova in their next match or if Poland – currently third and with just one game left – beat the Czechs.

An away win in Warsaw, though, would see the Czech Republic qualify if Moldova do not beat Albania.

Moldova have two games left, which they realistically would need to win to keep in the qualification mix.

Despite being bottom of the table with just one point from seven games, the Faroe Islands could yet find themselves in the play-offs depending on other results.

Group F

Austria and group leaders Belgium have both qualified.

Belgium’s game against Sweden at the King Baudouin Stadium on Monday night was abandoned at half-time after two people were shot dead in Brussels. It has yet to be confirmed whether the fixture will be replayed.

Azerbaijan are not theoretically out of play-off contention, while bottom side Estonia are the top-ranked team from Nations League Group D.

Group G

Leaders Hungary – who have Barnsley midfielder Callum Styles in the squad – missed the chance to qualify after having to recover to draw 2-2 in Lithuania.

However, a point in their next match away to Bulgaria would see them through, as would Montenegro not beating Lithuania.

Second-placed Serbia will qualify if Montenegro fail to win on November 16 or they themselves beat Bulgaria in their last game.

Bottom side Bulgaria have slim play-off hopes, but Serbia are secured a spot if they need it as one of the Nations League group winners.

Group H

Slovenia, who beat Northern Ireland in Belfast on Tuesday night, and Denmark are in the driving seat to qualify, sitting four points clear of Kazakhstan.

A win in Copenhagen for either team on November 17 would see them through, as would San Marino getting an unlikely positive result against Kazakhstan.

Finland will go into the play-offs, which is also the likely route for Kazakhstan.

Group I

Switzerland’s fightback with two late goals to draw 3-3 against Belarus left them second in the table, a point behind leaders Romania having played a game less.

Israel – assured of at least a play-off spot – are four points adrift, and have their rearranged match with the Swiss on November 15.

Switzerland will qualify if they win their next two fixtures, while Romania will if the Swiss lose in Tel Aviv and they themselves then beat Israel on November 18.

Romania are set to host Switzerland in the final round of fixtures, while Israel’s postponed match against Kosovo has still to be rescheduled.

Group J


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Portugal qualified for the finals as runaway group winners with a 100 per cent record so far through eight games.

Slovakia will also qualify with a match to spare if they avoid defeat against Iceland.

Luxembourg are five points behind, so look likely to go into the play-offs along with Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Liam Kelly reflected on the “best moment” of his life after eventually making his Scotland debut in the 4-1 defeat by France in Lille on Tuesday night.

The 27-year-old Motherwell goalkeeper was first called up to the senior squad four years ago and had to patiently await his chance, which came when Steve Clarke rested number one Angus Gunn and started with Kelly before bringing on Hearts keeper and fellow debutant Zander Clark at the interval.

It was a sore night for the Scots however, despite taking an early lead through Billy Gilmour’s first goal in senior football.

France defender Benjamin Pavard scored twice with headers as a star-studded home side fought back.

Skipper Kylian Mbappe added a third from the spot before the break and substitute Kingsley Coman hammered a fourth past Clark in the 70th minute to seal a convincing friendly win for the superior hosts.

“The best moment of your life, isn’t it?” said Kelly when asked about his first appearance for his country.

“I played for every age group with Scotland up until now and I have been in a lot of squads along with big Zander so I was just delighted to get that moment eventually.

“I’m so grateful to the manager to get that chance and I am delighted for big Zander as well because we have been in this together from the start.

“During the game you can’t think about anything else or else you get punished, so maybe now and over the next few days it will start to sink in a wee bit but yes, the best moment of your life playing for your country.

“Me and Zander have been in the squad a long time, you take any chance you can get.

“As I said I am really grateful to the manager to give me that chance.

“He didn’t have to do it, he could have played big Angus again so I am over the moon and thankful he gave me that opportunity.

“I think I done OK in the game so it all went to plan, apart from the scoreline.”

Clark, 31, was similarly delighted to make his debut as replacement for long-time buddy Kelly.

He said: “As a kid you always dream of that moment and it was a great feeling and a special occasion as well.

“I am buzzing for Liam as well, I have known him since we were kids and a lot of hard work has gone into it.

“For us to get the first on the same night is a special moment.

“It was tough, they had stars all over the place.

“But we had good spells and a great finish by Billy and it was unfortunate to come away with such a heavy defeat but pleased with the effort we put in.”

Fly-half Handre Pollard says the pressure of representing South Africa at the World Cup is a privilege as he bids to inflict more misery on England.

Pollard kicked 22 points in the 2019 final to guide the Springboks to glory with a 32-12 win and still remembers the disappointment etched on the faces of Eddie Jones’ men.

The fit-again Leicester playmaker is competing with Manie Libbok to start Saturday’s Paris semi-final after initially being overlooked for his country’s squad due to a calf injury.


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Pollard expects England, now led by Jones’ successor Steve Borthwick, to take their intensity and physicality to a “whole new level” but insists the heavily-fancied reigning champions are ready for it.


“You could see on their faces four years ago the disappointment and I’ve been part of a squad that’s fallen out in a semi-final in a World Cup (in 2015) and it sits with you the rest of your life,” he said.

“There’s a lot of things you look back (on) and regret and maybe think you could have done differently, and I’m sure they will come with that mindset this weekend.

“I think they will be ruthless, I think they will take their intensity and physicality to a whole new level.

“But that being said, we’re prepared for that, we’re ready for that and we enjoy that.

“That’s always a part of the game we love and if there’s going to be beef, there’s going to be beef.

“It’s Test rugby, it’s 80 minutes and we’ve just got to go out and play the game.”

South Africa are seeking to reach their fourth World Cup final, having lifted the trophy in 1995, 2007 and 2019.

Pollard believes the Springboks’ enviable ability to deliver when it really matters can partly be attributed to adversity some players face during childhood.

“It’s just the way we’re brought up,” he said. “We love it.

“It’s not always been easy for a lot of our guys in our squad growing up so when we get to this position and get to this point where there should be a lot of pressure on us, we refer back to it a lot, this is not really pressure, this is more privilege to be a part of these occasions.

“I think our game model and the way we play the game suits World Cups pretty well. We’re comfortable in this environment.

“As a group we just enjoy it, really enjoy that pressure. We always say it’s a privilege to have this pressure on our shoulders playing for our country.”

South Africa progressed to the last four by upsetting hosts France 29-28 on Sunday.

That epic contest included Cheslin Kolbe successfully charging down a Thomas Ramos conversion and Damian Willemse calling for a scrum off a mark inside his own 22.

Earlier in the tournament, the Springboks attracted attention for a bold selection of a seven-one split of forwards and backs on their bench for the Pool B loss to Ireland.

Pollard says players fully embrace the innovative tactics cooked up by director of rugby Rassie Erasmus and head coach Jacques Nienaber.

“Nothing that they do is for no reason, it’s all thought of, it’s all tick-list planned,” he said.

“We trust them because they’ve earned our trust over the years from what they’ve done and how they’ve prepared.

“So when they come up with these ideas, there are no questions asked.

“They give us a reason why we do whatever we do and then we just back it and we’re all in and we all just trust each other, players to coaches and coaches to players.”

Steve Clarke has told his Scotland players to “stop this run” of defeats next month after losing 4-1 to France in Lille.

The Scots went into the friendly knowing they had qualified for the 2024 European Championships after Spain beat Norway at the weekend to ensure a top-two finish in Group A.

Scotland had lost 2-0 to Spain last week on the back of a 3-1 loss to England at Hampden Park in the 150th Heritage Anniversary match and the French were even classier.

Clarke made eight changes from Seville – goalkeepers Liam Kelly and Zander Clark played a half each on their debuts.

Scotland stunned the home side when midfielder Billy Gilmour guided in the opener after 11 minutes – his first ever senior goal.

However, France defender Benjamin Pavard scored two headers, skipper Kylian Mbappe added a third from the spot before the break after a VAR intervention saw referee Tobias Stieler judge Scotland defender Liam Cooper had held Olivier Giroud and substitute Kingsley Coman hammered in a fourth.

After victory in their first five Euro qualifiers, Scotland have lost three in a row and Clarke wants to get that winning feeling back in the final two qualifiers against Georgia next month before the final game against Norway.

He said: “We can take away the memory of the qualification but we lost two games in the camp.

“We don’t like losing. I don’t want them to be comfortable losing or happy to lose.

“We spoke about that after the game. It is important we set our standards higher than that.

“We have lost three in a row now and I have asked them to make sure that when we got to Georgia that we stop this run.

“We want to finish on the same points as Spain so the target is to finish with 21 point which will make it a good campaign.”

Clarke, who was “happy” with his team selection, acknowledged the superiority of the home side.

He said: “I thought we started the game really well, the first 15 minute was good and we got ourselves in front.

“To concede a goal from a corner was disappointing because we know France can score from open play and we try not to give goals away from set plays.

“The third goal – I don’t think VAR should have got involved in the decision, it was soft and when the referee goes there he has to be strong to stick with his original decision.

“Both players were at it and that takes the game away from us.

“The second half was OK but France are always a threat with their pace and power and quality.

“So lots to learn, lots to improve. We know we are not at that level yet.

“It is level we are going to strive to get to and the harder we strive the better team we will be.”

After sealing qualification to Euro 2024 with a 2-1 win over the Netherlands on Friday, France boss Didier Deschamps was happy to finish the camp off with a convincing win

He said: “It was a very good week, When you win you are always happy.

“The most important thing was against the Netherlands on Friday night and the fact that we have shown so much quality tonight as well, it is a great satisfaction for us.

“We created lots of chances against a team that can defend pretty well and has a lot of qualities. So we are very happy.”

Scotland gave France an early fright before suffering a chastening 4-1 loss to their classy hosts in Lille.

The Scots went into the friendly knowing they had qualified for the 2024 European Championships at the weekend after Spain beat Norway to ensure Steve Clarke’s side a top-two finish in Group A.

Clarke took the opportunity to utilise his squad, giving a debut to Liam Kelly among eight changes from last week’s game in Seville and they stunned the home side when midfielder Billy Gilmour guided in the opener after 11 minutes – his first ever senior goal.

However, France defender Benjamin Pavard scored twice with headers by way of a rapid response and skipper Kylian Mbappe added a third from the spot before the break.

Substitute Kingsley Coman hammered in a fourth in the 70th minute to seal a commanding win for the superior home side.

After winning their first five Euro qualifiers, Scotland have lost three games in a row and Clarke will want to get that winning feeling back in the final two qualifiers against Georgia and Norway next month.

In addition to Kelly’s introduction to international football in The Decathlon Arena Stade Pierre Mauroy, Clarke also brought in defenders Nathan Patterson, Greg Taylor and Liam Cooper, midfielders Kenny McLean, Gilmour and Lewis Ferguson and striker Che Adams.

It was always going to be a tough test against Les Blues, who qualified comfortably for Euro 2024 by winning their first six qualifiers.

Boss Didier Deschamps also freshened his side up from the 2-1 win over the Netherlands last Friday.

Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann kept their places while Ousmane Dembele and all-time leading scorer Olivier Giroud came back into the side.

The kick-off was delayed for around 10 minutes due to the long queues at the stadium amid extra security measures put in place after two Swedish nationals were shot dead in Brussels the previous evening.

There was a minute’s silence before the game to commemorate that incident and it was a low-key start to the game on a pitch still showing markings from its use in the Rugby World Cup, before the Scots took an unexpected lead.

France defender Eduardo Camavinga cut out a pass from Gilmour inside the box but with a poor touch gave it straight back to the unmarked Brighton midfielder, who curled the ball low past goalkeeper Mike Maignan.

However, there was little time for the Tartan Army to enjoy the landmark goal as a Griezmann corner from the left five minutes later was all too easily glanced past Kelly by Inter Milan centre-back Pavard.

A refocused France side took control of the game and Mbappe skipped past Jack Hendry before crossing for Pavard again to head past Kelly from close range.

The visitors were struggling to get up the pitch and in the 40th minute France were awarded a penalty after referee Tobias Stieler went pitchside at the behest of VAR and judged Cooper had held Giroud inside the penalty area, with Mbappe stepping up to send the penalty past the diving Kelly, who got close but not close enough.

The Motherwell keeper did not look great moments later when he fumbled a shot from Dembele but the lurking Mbappe could not capitalise.

Hearts keeper Zander Clark replaced Kelly at the start of the second half to make his debut and Jacob Brown and John Souttar would take over from Adams and Cooper. Giroud and Dembele made way for Marcus Thuram and Coman and in the 70th minute the latter thrashed a shot high past Clark after Griezmann had volleyed against the bar.

A low drive from Brown in a rare Scotland attack was pushed past the post by Maignan and the corner came to nothing before Ryan Christie and Stuart Armstrong came on for Gilmour and McLean.

Thuram rattled Clark’s crossbar with a drive and at the other Maignan made saves from Armstrong’s volley and Brown’s header but the game was already well gone for Scotland.

Marcus Smith is now viewed as a “world class” option at full-back by England after Kevin Sinfield was blown away by his defensive heroics against Fiji.

England are hopeful that Smith will be passed fit for Saturday’s World Cup semi-final against South Africa after he was placed on modified training alongside Jonny May, Manu Tuilagi, Tom Curry, Courtney Lawes and Dan Cole.

The converted fly-half ended the last-eight victory over Fiji on Sunday with a fat upper lip and bandage around his head after he was the victim of a dangerous tackle by wing Vinaya Habosi, forcing him to depart for an HIA which he passed.

Once again he is competing with Freddie Steward for the number 15 jersey and, after two starts in the position, Sinfield sees a player who has the bravery to match his attacking brilliance.

“We’d all agree he’s a world class 10, but last weekend I felt he was a world class 15 as well,” England’s defence coach said

“You’ve got to remember this guys has played around 100, 120 minutes as a full-back in Test rugby so far.

“What he’s done on the training field for us has been outstanding. You’re blown away by what he does now that he’s being given more time and space.

“If there was any doubt how brave and courageous he is then you saw it with your own eyes. The bloke got his face smashed in and threw his body into tackles.

“The guys are in full admiration for him – he’s just got his face smashed all over the place yet he wants the ball. He’s just a brave guy.

“And not just because he’s physically tough and brave, because to be put on a world stage in a quarter-final and deliver what he delivered was an absolute credit to him. What a great kid.”

Steward was dropped from the 23 against Fiji altogether and now England face the choice of reverting to his high ball and positional expertise or rolling the dice by retaining Smith in the hope he will provide a cutting edge.

South Africa possess a far smarter kicking game that could expose Smith’s inexperience at full-back, pointing to Steward’s likely return when Steve Borthwick names his team on Thursday.

“I’ve worked with Fred for some time now and thankfully I’ve not had to have many of these conversations where I’m trying to pick him up,” Sinfield said.

“Clearly he was disappointed, as anyone would be, missing out on a quarter-final, but he’s responded as we’d expect him to.

“He is a great lad, you know what he’s about, he works incredibly hard at his game, he cares and he is unbelievable full-back too.

“We are in a pretty fortunate position where we have three world class 10s and two world class full-backs.

“Our team has changed every game throughout the World Cup and Steve selects the team he thinks it will give us the best chance of winning that game.

“Just because Fred wasn’t selected last week doesn’t mean he does anything wrong, he has actually done a lot of great things and a lot of things right, but Steve and the coaching team thought it was the right thing to go with Marcus against Fiji.”

Tom Pidcock has admitted he faces pressure from the Ineos Grenadiers to put greater focus on the Tour de France but the world and Olympic mountain bike champion is determined to keep enjoying multiple disciplines for a little while longer.

The 24-year-old is seen as a potential future Tour winner but though he took a famous stage victory on the Alpe d’Huez in 2022 and rode to 13th overall this year, the Yorkshireman is yet to concentrate solely on the road, and this year added the world mountain bike title to his Olympic crown.

Pidcock also won the cyclo-cross world title last year, and while his pursuit of multiple goals is delaying the day when he might be ready to chase Tour glory, he believes a varied approach is making him a better all-round rider.

“Maybe I need to specialise in one discipline if I want to win the Tour, but I know that you’ll get the best out of me when I’m happy and when I’m enjoying it,” Pidcock said on the Red Bull Just Ride podcast. “Which is why I love other disciplines…

“Of course I want to win the Tour de France one day but the patience and preparation is massive.

“There is the element (of pressure from the team) and I knew that when I committed long term to the team. I also want it, but in my own way. I want to achieve all the things I believe I can achieve…

“Right now, I’m not ready to win the Tour de France next year yet. There has to be more steps where I achieve things in different disciplines and achieving them makes me a better rider.”

Pidcock was speaking after the Mountain Bike World Cup event in Mont-Sainte-Anne, where he won the cross-country race to continue preparations for his Olympic title defence next summer.

Pidcock has also enjoyed success on the road this season, winning Strade Bianche in March before podium finishes at the Amstel Gold Race and Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

But Ineos, a team who won the Tour seven times out of eight between 2012 and 2019, have found themselves left behind at the world’s biggest race in recent years as UAE Team Emirates and Jumbo-Visma have come to the fore, and the Grenadiers need a lift.

While Pidcock could perhaps emerge as a rival if he went all-in, he is reluctant to do so – the three-week slog of the Tour at odds with his instinctive style.

Looking back to his Alpe d’Huez win, he added: “You’re the centre of attention but only for a couple of hours – then you’re back to it with massage and food. Before you know it, you’re on the next stage the next day and there’s a new winner so it’s done.

“Compared to when I won the Olympics where you’re on the front of all the newspapers back home and people want interviews and chats that you could live off for months. With the Tour, it never stops and you have to be ready to race again.”

Pidcock plans to ride the Tour again next summer, but has to balance that with his ambitions in both the mountain bike race and the road race at the Paris Olympics, which begin only eight days after the Tour finishes in Nice.

The tight schedule is behind his decision to keep chasing mountain bike qualification points late into the year.

“By doing these races at the end of the year now, it will mean I don’t have to do the mountain bike races in the spring which will allow me better prep for the Tour,” he said.

“Then I’ll hopefully come out of the end of that in a better condition to cope with the start of the Olympics.”

:: Tom Pidcock is a Red Bull athlete. He was speaking on the latest Red Bull Just Ride podcast. Listen to the full episode here.

Eddie Jones has committed his future to coaching Australia and again denied speculation linking him with a return to Japan.

Australia crashed out of the Rugby World Cup at the group stage for the first time after defeats to Fiji and Wales, but the former England coach insists he has no plans to move.

“I’m staying mate,” he told reporters in Australia. “I’ve always been committed to Australian rugby, I want to leave it in a better place, and that’s still the job.

“It’s not absolutely my decision. We play in a game where the coach doesn’t decide how long they stay.

“We’ve got a review going forward and we’ll see what happens at the end of the review.”

Jones, who took over from Dave Rennie in January a month after being sacked by England, said he had “no idea” where the story came from about him speaking to Japan about a coaching role.

“I haven’t spoken to anyone, mate,” he said.

Rugby Australia has announced an independent review into the World Cup performance, but Jones believes his decision to select a young team will pay dividends when Australia hosts the next World Cup in 2027.

“I went to the World Cup, came in (with) a short period of time, had to make a decision on the team, made a decision we needed to go with youth,” he said.

“And whilst, the results at the World Cup weren’t the results we wanted, I think I’ve left the Australian team in a great position to go on to 2027.

“We had the courage to go with a younger squad and I think this squad is going to stand Australia in good stead. We have the nucleus of a really good team.”

He continued: “We just weren’t good enough, mate. You’ve just got to watch the quarter-finals on the weekend.

“We’re not at that level and we can’t pretend to be at that level, but can we be at that level by 2027? Yes we can.”

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