The end of a long silence. Time for explanations. More than three weeks after the elimination of the French XV by South Africa (29-28) in the quarter-finals of “his” World Cup, Fabien Galthié has finally broken the silence. The Blues coach decided to speak out, to defend his record and look ahead to the rest of his mandate which runs until the next World Cup in 2027, in Australia. A first speech, initially planned for the end of the month, which was finally brought forward. And it was at the Stade Charlety, located in the 13th arrondissement of Paris, that he finally spoke out to return to this brutal and resounding failure. All after leading training for young people from the PUC (Paris University Club), chaired by… Florian Grill, the president of the FFR.
Relaxed, the coach of the XV of France confided having rewatched this lost quarter-final several times, which he then debriefed at length with his staff. Without commenting on the controversial refereeing of New Zealander Ben O'Keeffe, Fabien Galthié nevertheless confirmed that he sent World Rugby, the international federation, ten sequences of the match subject to discussion. “We needed to have answers about the decisions made during the match. I have rewatched the match about ten times. I had six or seven cameras and a lot of data, he emphasizes. I came across a lot of information.”
The Blues coach obviously returned to the immense disappointment suffered against the Springboks. “First of all, it’s an injury and a pain. When you play for the French team and a World Cup, you have to be ready to win but also to experience what you have experienced. In the end, there is only one team that is not in pain: the world champion. We will have the scar for life and that is part of our journey. We all did a sort of introspection, first personal then collective, on what we experienced.”
But, from now on, a new page is opening for the XV of France. With a staff remodeled with the departures of Laurent Labit (attack) and Karim Ghezal (touchdown) for Stade Français, replaced respectively by Patrick Arlettaz (Perpignan) and Laurent Sempéré (Stade Français). Also with a new physical trainer: Thibault Giroud, who left for Bordeaux-Bègles, giving way to Nicolas Jeanjean, who is gaining ground. According to Fabien Galthié, who does not intend to revolutionize his method (80% success since 2020), the current structure of the Blues will mature. “Against South Africa, we had a team with an average age of 27. In four years, if they don't move, this team will have an average age of 31. Depending on the turnover, we can increase, based on collective experience, two years and 20 selections. From there, I think the team will be stronger than the one that lost by one point against South Africa.
Especially since new blood could be quickly injected, with the arrival of the impressive second row of Australian origin Emmanuel Meafou (2.03 m for 145 kg) and a new golden generation crowned world champion among the under 20 years old (Posolo Tuilagi, Baptiste Jauneau, Marko Gazzotti, Lenni Nouchi, Nicolas Depoortère…). “It’s interesting because we easily forget the past: I remember when we took on the French team in 2019. They told me good luck because there were players missing in this or that position. In fact, we can be surprised by the potential there is in French rugby. All players in Pro D2, Top 14 and training centers must have the ambition to play for the French team,” insists Fabien Galthié.
The next deadlines will arrive quickly, at the start of the year, with the next Six Nations Tournament. For the first time, Fabien Galthié and his troops will play in three different stadiums in the provinces. The first against Ireland, at the Stade-Vélodrome in Marseille, on Friday February 2 (9 p.m.). For an explosive shock against the title holders, and other major disappointments of this World Cup. The Blues will then host Italy in Lille on February 25 (4 p.m.). Before challenging England, surprising third in the World Cup, in Lyon on March 16 (9 p.m.), for a prime time “Crunch”. The opportunity for the Blues to once again come into contact with their public. “We were able to realize how much the French loved us, loved this team and lived this adventure. We felt a breath, a support, a support, says the French coach. I speak in the past tense, but I could speak in the present tense too.” To dream, once again, of a bright future. And to assure: “We will have this scar with us, but it is not a handicap. Over time, it becomes experience and knowledge with the possibility of being even better. »