The little wind of novelty blowing over the French XV does not only concern the five neophytes and the ghost (Paul Gabrillagues) who have been summoned to prepare for the next Six Nations Tournament. This is also the case for the second version of Fabien Galthié's staff with the arrivals of Patrick Arlettaz and Laurent Sempéré, respectively in charge of attack and conquest. “They bring freshness and an outside perspective,” appreciates William Servat, still assistant in charge of the forwards. We experience it in our families, having people arrive gives us an outside perspective. This allows us to evolve our cells in the staff, our behaviors.
A page has therefore been turned. Brutally, with this elimination in the quarter-finals of the last World Cup against the Springboks, future champions. But Fabien Galthié and his deputies repeat that they are working in the continuity of what has been done since 2020 and which has allowed France to once again become a nation that counts on the oval planet. “We have a lot of freshness and desire, pleasure in getting together. We had a group that lived well and we have, once again, a group that lives well, assures “La Bûche”. With new players, new staff members and today a lot of freshness of mind.”
But then, this disillusionment, we act as if nothing had happened? “We are on the continuity of the mandate, so we talked about this quarter-final of the World Cup. The opposite would have been to turn a blind eye, concedes Servat. It must serve us. This frustration must help the staff and players to have a form of preparation to be ready against Ireland. And to insist: “The digestion (of this failure) has taken place, the players have moved on to something else. We need to bounce back and start with new momentum to grow further. Our team was strong. But we leave this level with more assertive ambitions, we have learned.”
The restart at the Vélodrome against the XV du Trèfle will nevertheless be without several beams of the tricolor pack: Thibaud Flament (foot), Anthony Jelonch (knee), but also the long-awaited Emmanuel Meafou, also injured in the knee last weekend . “We are sad for them. Selfishly, you could think of us, but they mattered a lot, says the former international hooker from Stade Toulousain. We feel sorry for the clubs too. They don't have the same resources as us in the French team. In fact, it's not obvious to anyone: to the players, to the clubs and to us..."
However, the new generation that is arriving and the new blood injected are sources of hope and renewal. “Internal emulation will help this group move forward,” he hopes. The injury of some will give opportunities to others. Matthias Halagahu and Esteban Abadie (who play at RC Toulon, Editor's note) have extraordinary abilities. Like superpowers. When we sometimes see the quality of the players who have zero selections and who are with us…”
Grégory Alldritt, named captain of the Blues in the absence of Antoine Dupont (French 7s team), returned to the injury of this quarter lost against the Boks: “It was hard for everyone. But little by little, we digested it. We will use this failure to grow.” William Servat says nothing else: “The quarter-final will help us a lot and we will be ready for Ireland. There will be new things, but the continuity is the same. We make things grow. I was talking about making our cells evolve, that’s what we’re going to do, but the basis of the work remains the same project.”
In the meantime, the French staff will have to make choices. Particularly at the hooker position where France has rich problems with Julien Marchand, long-time holder of the position but returning from injury, and Peato Mauvaka, author of a world-class World Cup. William Servat repeats the credo of the Blues: “In the French team, we are used to putting the quality of the players at the service of the team. The individual will never be above the collective. The “I” serves the “we”.” And to mention, also, the return to Marcoussis of Paul Willemse, who had missed the World Cup while he was one of the executives of Galthié's first mandate: “He was very important for the XV of France and its last club performances show that he has international level.