In 30 minutes flat and more than three weeks after the elimination of the French XV in the quarter-final of the World Cup by South Africa (29-28), Fabien Galthié broke his silence this Wednesday at a press conference . If the subjects of refereeing and the future have fallen by the wayside, the coach, slightly out of breath after leading a training session for the under-12s of the PUC (Paris Université Club), returned to the defeat in the quarter-final , on the strategy adopted and on this scar that is still so vivid.
On his silence after the quarter-final elimination: “In the post-match conference, World Rugby had planned 15 minutes of speaking time. We came with Antoine Dupont and we talked. When you get knocked out in the quarter-finals, you let the competition play out. The players left for their clubs. We had to let the Top 14 resume. The selectors who spoke are the winners. We had to give time. We must leave room for those who have won but also time to mourn. For us, it was a huge disappointment. It was four years of hard work, successful work, with more than 80% victories with all the records you know... The only goal we wanted was to be world champion. The disappointment would have been the same if we had lost in the semi-final or final in the same way, that is to say by one point. We talked among ourselves, between the players, the staff, to find out how things were going. The word that comes back and that I share with you is that you have to accept it. We must overcome this state. To tell you the truth, I had planned to speak to you later, at the end of November, but given the number of requests, I decided to speed up the process to share this pain and sorrow.
On the support of the French: “We wanted to bring together, share and unite. It was almost unexpected to have all this support. We felt it before and during the competition. By coming back into contact with families and real life, I realized how the French supported us. I speak in the imperfect tense but I could speak in the present tense. We only receive messages of support and affection.”
On the strategy adopted in the quarter-final: “We made no mistake about the strategy. When you enter the conclusion zone 11 times, it was way beyond our expectations. But on the last gesture, on the facts of the game... It wasn't enough. Of the seven final phase matches, we are the only team to have had so many highlights. Tactically, when you are in a position to score 37 points, you have not made a mistake. Defensively, we conceded 29 points. If I had to do it again, I would take the same strategy. Coaching was a debate. We were scheduled to coach earlier. We delayed it in certain positions but it seemed to us that it was the right time. But we die at some point. Despite all the facts of the game and this scenario, we had one objective, which was to play for victory until the last action. I want to congratulate the players. Despite the scenario, they remained focused.
On that “scar”: “It’s a pain. A wound. When you play a World Cup, you have to be ready to win, to play. The pain, the injury, it is normal. The one who doesn't hurt is the world champion. Having talked about it with the leaders, because I spoke to them all on the phone, we will have this scar for life. It's part of our path. We feel joy, excitement, positive energy but also pain. Having experienced it, it’s not a handicap.”
On the relationship between the clubs and the French team: “For four years, the French team was a success. During our first Tournament in 2020, only 15,000 places were sold against Italy. In August in Saint-Étienne, Nantes then at the Stade de France, everything was sold out. When the French team is doing well, it also benefits the clubs. When things go well, the stadiums fill up in the Top 14, in Pro D2, in National... We will continue to walk together. Everyone understands that the two institutions are associated in good times and bad.”
On the potential of French rugby: “When we took on the French team in 2019, people told me ‘good luck’. They told me, 'at the right pillar position, there is no one there either'... And in fact, we realized that when you bring a good methodology, you can be surprised by the potential we have in French rugby. When I go to see the young people from the PUC, I tell them that one day, they can play for the French team. Many have the potential to play. And above all, who have the ambition to play there. In a few months, we worked with the under-20s from Biarritz, Pau, Dax, Mont-de-Marsan, Bayonne, Grasse, Monaco, Nice, Stade Français... Bringing together, uniting, sharing, that is located there. We must tell the players that they can play for the French team. You have to come and wear the jersey. The lesson to learn from this experience is that there is no limit to the demands. There is no limit to the requirements for French rugby players and to have the strongest possible French team. Let's be demanding collectively, let's be demanding individually, let's all try to raise our level another notch. And it is at this price that we will be even more efficient.