Wales’s inaugural match of the newly-enlarged championship, with the inclusion of Italy expanding the Five Nations to the now Six Nations, was played at the new home of Welsh rugby – the Millennium Stadium.
France, on the back of their extraordinary achievement in the 1999 Rugby World Cup, for which the iconic showpiece stadium had been built to host, entered the Lloyds TSB Six Nations match as favourites, and lived up to the mantle with a strong and destructive display over a lacklustre Welsh side.
Enjoying the best of the opening chances, Wales gained three points from a 46 metre penalty courtesy of the boot of fly half Neil Jenkins. However, this proved to be the only Welsh score of the match.
Dafydd James may have altered the course of the game, and subsequent scoreline, had he finished off a superb break after just seven minutes. Yet this lack of confidence and missed opportunities seemed to dominate the Welsh performance.
Christophe Lamaison chipped over three penalties in the first half, taking the interval scores to 9-3 in favour of Les Bleus.
A resurgent French side emerged from the dressing room for the second half and inflicted a deluge of points upon the Welsh. Leading 12-3, a five minute spurt of play created by Thomas Castaignede devastated the already ragged-looking Welsh defence and put the French result out of doubt.
Olivier Magne gained the first try of the afternoon before the provider turned creator, as Castaignede went over for a five-pointer of his own on the restart.
Wales’s indiscipline gave France an extra advantage as Scott Quinnell received ten minutes off the field, with Colin Charvis on the verge of reducing Wales to a thirteen man side. France completed the rout with ten minutes to spare as Emile Ntamack easily profited from a Welsh missed pass.
Lamaison’s points total for the afternoon finished on 21 as he converted Ntamack’s try, earning himself the man-of-the-match accolade and rounding off the French victory, and Wales’s woeful start to the campaign.