Six Nations Tournament: the XV of France in favorite costume



They came back, they are all there, or almost. Present, the Toulousains put a time on the sidelines because of the Covid, in the forefront of which the hinge Antoine Dupont-Romain Ntamack. Reinflated, the opener of Bordeaux Matthieu Jalibert a time injured in the thigh or the pillar of La Rochelle Uini Atonio, also unavailable at the start of the internship. The XV of France finds itself this week almost in full force at the Foreign Legion camp in Aubagne (Bouches-du-Rhône) to complete the preparation for a Six Nations Tournament that everyone knows will be decisive.

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Because after a long phase of rise to power, here is the XV of France at the time of keeping its promises. “We passed the implementation of our project, now it’s time to go and win competitions”, hammered Laurent Labit, assistant to coach Fabien Galthié, before approaching the final week of development.

A favorable calendar

Forgotten the second place snatched in 2021, marked by sawtooth results, with two victories on the wire in Ireland (15-13) and against Wales (32-30), but also two disappointments against Scotland (23-27) and England (23-20). Since then, there has been this autumn tour with above all this demonstration of mastery on November 20, 2021 against the New Zealand giants (40-25). Something to flatter the nascent reputation of the Blues, and suddenly stick them with the favorite costume of this 2022 Tournament.

It must be said that the circumstances are also rather favorable. The Blues will restart the machine this Sunday, February 6 against Italy at the Stade de France. An a priori comfortable warm-up. The Italians certainly present themselves this year with a new coach, the New Zealander Kieran Crowley, ex-world champion player in 1987, who did an excellent job of raising the level of Canada between 2008 and 2016. But the fact remains that this Italy has not won a single match in the Tournament for seven years (22-19 in Scotland in February 2015).

In this even year, the Blues will then be able to take advantage of the support of their public for the reception of Ireland (February 12), very fit last fall by also bringing down the All Blacks (29-20), and for that of England, whose young generation is already very ambitious, but which deplores the package on injury of the opening strategist Owen Farrell, at the end of the Tournament (March 19). Thanks to the calendar: taking his two main rivals home is good news, like this weekend of rest between the trip to Scotland (February 26) and the trip to Wales (March 11).

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The two will obviously not be a walk in the park, but the Blues at the top of their game should have a Scottish training always in search of consistency, and Welsh this year decimated by injuries. A handful of major holders will not be on the bench, like legendary captain Alun Wyn Jones (148 caps), hooker Ken Owens (91 caps) or rear Leigh Halfpenny (100 caps).

Fulfill promises

So, indeed favorites, the Blues? ” No doubtassures the new Welsh captain, Dan Biggar. The French finally have a better organized team, but still with this flair and this ability to suddenly turn to the game. England coach Eddie Jones was also quick to put pressure on his best enemies: “The great master of French rugby Bernard Laporte (the president of the French Rugby Federation, editor’s note) did a great job and succeeded in getting the clubs to work with the Federation, so you have no more excuses! »

By concluding one of the training sessions last week with a motivational talk, the most capped of the current Blues, Gaël Fickou (66 selections), let go: “This year, it’s for us! » However, they are careful not to put on this bulky overcoat too quickly: “We don’t particularly take on this status as favorite but of course we’re here to seek a title, because that’s what we lack at the moment, and what we also lack, precisely, for assume this status of favorite “shifts Toulon winger Gabin Villière.

Caution is not just feigned. These Blues with a still virgin record are not the type to brag about. But they know very well that it is no longer time to hide behind their little finger, and that the counters really have to be raised to give full credibility to this meticulous project which should lead them to the title of world champion, at home in 2023. The adventure has certainly begun two years ago, the first chapters quite well written, but it is time to give consistency to the story. Expected reading pleasure.

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Les Bleues begin their preparation

The women’s XV of France begins its preparation for the Tournament with a training course bringing together the 38 players selected, this Monday, February 7 in Bastia. Like last year because of the pandemic, the women’s competition is postponed and scheduled after that of the men and the under 20s, from March 27 to April 30. A formula defended by the Six Nations Committee, arguing “higher audience figures” and of “more engagement on social networks” last year. At home, the XV of France will play against Italy in Grenoble (March 27), against Ireland in Toulouse (April 2), and will face England in Bayonne (April 30).

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