What do you remember from this World Cup? “It was brutal, difficult. The disappointment is still present, the digestion will be long... But we must move on. I have this new challenge, which I chose. I needed to quickly move on to something else, not to forget because it will be difficult but above all to plan on this new thing and get off to the best possible start.”
Did you watch the match against the Springboks again? “Of course. (He blows) We are disappointed with our performance, we gave too many easy points to South Africa. In a match of this level, in the quarter-final of the World Cup, against the world champions, we took 19 points in the first half on three attempts with zero passes, two high balls, a turnover... Everything that it should not be done. Especially against this kind of opponent. We can go on the decisions (arbitration, editor's note) but this match, it is us who lose it, not the referee.
Do you have any regrets? “Yes. In four years, we had ticked all the boxes of what we wanted to do. The objective, initially, was to bring together, to unite, to share. We saw the excitement around this World Cup, it was incredible: everywhere we went, it looked like the Rolling Stones. It was crazy. Then we wanted to win. We won 80% of our matches. Over four years, at the international level, it’s something incredible. We had everything mapped out: preparation for the World Cup, planning with different locations, time spent with family, rest times... Everything was planned out. Except... maybe too much confidence? A little excitement? Perhaps we wanted to go too quickly. This match leaves us with a lot of regrets.”
Looking back, would you do things differently? “No, I don’t think so. On the game, on the players, if we had to play again next weekend, we would play again the same way.
Did you follow the rest of the competition? “I needed four or five days to come out of all that, not to watch the semi-finals. It was too difficult. I watched the final with the Stade Français players, we were together in Bayonne. I wanted to think about something else, to start again. Staying at home to ruminate would have been worse.”
Precisely, arriving quickly at the Stade Français allowed you to move on... “The days are very busy, there is the whole project to put in place. We had a lot of meetings, appointments... It allows us to move on and avoid thinking too much about this World Cup, at home, which we had within reach and which we failed.”
And you arrive here with Karim Ghezal, co-coach of the French XV forwards during the World Cup. What is your relationship? “I had the chance to train him twice. We traveled together to Montauban, then to Racing. As a player, he was always hardworking and attentive and interested in the game, in training. He started with the specific, the touch and the conquest, but always had this fiber. He quickly gained ground in the game. We found ourselves in the French team, around Fabien Galthié. We spent four years together and I saw it develop: we worked a lot together on the circuits, on launches and relaunches. He is a modern, innovative coach with a good vision and good ideas.”