World Cup ? Pardon ? No, we are not talking about the big September meeting on the side of the XV of France. Promise sworn, the spirits are concentrated on another objective, only one, and it is not necessary besides to think further. Because the Six Nations Tournament, this year more than ever, offers a huge and stimulating challenge.
Calculate by projecting themselves on the planetary competition that the French oval must welcome at the start of the school year, that is what the management of the Blues wants to exclude. And to avoid knots in the brain and small arrangements to try to preserve the future, what better than to continue your momentum and win everything. “We are still hungry. We therefore present ourselves as predators in this competition, because we will never be satisfied, ” asked coach Fabien Galthié in mid-January.
Already making history
After the 2022 Grand Slam, the first for twelve years, it can be a question of making history, and Fabien Galthié is not insensitive to this ambition. The Blues have only lined up two consecutive Grand Slams once, in 1997 and 1998, so before the passage of the event to six nations (in 2000, with the arrival of Italy). If they succeed in doubling down, they will also record 18 straight wins, equaling the record of New Zealand (in 2016) and England (in 2017).
The prospect can enchant. But even if the Blues are going to start this tournament with a capital of confidence at the highest level for ages, they know that the game promises to be the tightest, and perhaps from the outset, with a trip to Rome which is without doubt less than yesterday a formality. Italy dreams of a renaissance, reinvigorated by its unexpected success in Wales last year (22-21) and by its historic victory over Australia in the fall (28-27). But the difficulty is especially full-bodied in this odd year by the high-risk outings in Ireland and England. Since the beginning of the century, the Blues have only snatched the grand slam in the years when they received the XV of Clover and the Rose (2002, 2004, 2010 and 2022).
To triumph, it will however be necessary to go and seek your fortune first in Dublin on February 11. It will be the clash of the titans of this 129th tournament, between the Irish at the top of the world rankings and their pressing dolphins. The Irish who twice defeated the All Blacks on their New Zealand lands in July 2022, and who spent the fall without incident beating the South African world champions (19-16), Fiji (35- 17) and Australia (13-10). Suffice to say that they will not wait for the Blues while chattering their teeth.
He will also have to win at Twickenham on March 11, against the English who are certainly recovering and led by a new coach, Steve Borthwick. But jostling the XV of the Rose in his temple is not an easy task. The last exploit achieved there by the XV of France dates back to 2005, a victory on the wire (18-17) thanks to the foot of Dimitri Yachvili, author of all the points for the Blues trained at the time by a certain Bernard Laporte, then at the heart of his mandate as coach.
Stay in their bubble
A Bernard Laporte who this year will no longer be present as federal president, his resignation having taken place in full preparation of the Blues in training in Capbreton (Landes). An episode on which the Blues prefer not to dwell. Fabien Galthié remains very close to the former federal boss, and Raphaël Ibanez, the manager of the XV of France, wanted to remind that “The World Cup in France, it’s him, and it’s also thanks to him that the XV of France was equipped for the first time with experts and such a complete framework”. The strategists of the Blues are especially keen not to deviate from their course, knowing full well that, for the time being, no one is thinking of questioning either their prerogatives or their means.
They therefore remain focused on the game, which they will have to further refine to surprise opponents who are no longer left to be told. The XV of France has become the team to beat, and the schemes based on dispossession (leaving the ball to the opponent to better counter it) have shown certain limits this autumn. “Always progress” is the key word of Fabien Galthié. The room for improvement is now in the ability to play the game, without exposing yourself too much and offering opportunities to the opponent. In short, it is a matter of asserting oneself as a boss. By completely donning the costume of potential world champion.
And meanwhile, an interim president
After the resignation of Bernard Laporte, the nine representatives of the opposition and the two of the National Rugby League, the steering committee of the French Rugby Federation (FFR) has only 26 members left, all elected in 2020 on the list The door. They are the ones who validated, Thursday, February 2, the name of the next interim president of the FFR: Alexandre Martinez, 70, until then treasurer of the institution.
This former senior executive of Orange will therefore be in charge until June 29, the date of the general assembly of the FFR (in Lille) which will have to elect a new president until the end of the term of office in 2024. to the collective resignation of the steering committee launched by the opposition and the Minister of Sports, Amélie Oudéa-Castéra, remain a dead letter for the time being.