MILTON KEYNES, England — France became the first team through to the Rugby World Cup quarterfinals after scoring five tries in a 41-18 win against Canada in their Pool D match on Thursday.
Veteran lock Pascal Pape got the all-important fourth try and the bonus point that France —runner-up four years ago to New Zealand — needed to reach the last eight.
France will be aiming to beat Ireland in its last game to secure top spot in Pool D and avoid a likely showdown with the All Blacks in the quarterfinals.
Despite the fulltime score, it was a somewhat patchy performance from France and the only safe bet was the accurate kicking of veteran flyhalf Frederic Michalak.
The 32-year-old Michalak converted the first four tries and added two penalties on his way to becoming his country’s all-time World Cup scorer with 136 points. He made his World Cup debut in 2003.
Michalak went off near the end and was replaced by Morgan Parra, a mainstay from the 2011 squad, who then helped to set up winger Remy Grosso for a try on his test debut as Canada played the last 10 minutes with 14 players after Nanyak Dala was sin-binned.
France coach Philippe Saint-Andre will be pleased with a fifth straight win, but will be seeking answers as to why his team switched off in the first half.
The French appeared to be in complete control at 17-0 after tries from
Left winger DTH Van Der Merwe crossed out wide and hooker Aaron Carpenter bulldozed over the creaking French line on the right.
That stirred France back into action.
The French won a penalty at the end of the half, but Michalak chose an attacking lineout instead of a shot at goal. The move paid off, the French rolling maul proved too good and prop Rabah Slimani ducked in to pad out the lead to 24-12.
Jerome Pugmire, The Associated Press