France head coach Fabien Galthie has admitted they must accept criticism for their recent coronavirus outbreak, but insisted zero risk does not exist after announcing his team to face England on Saturday.
The Guinness Six Nations title contenders resume their campaign at Twickenham after their match with Scotland, scheduled for February 28 in Paris, had to be postponed.
A total of 12 players returned positive Covid-19 tests last month in addition to Galthie, which ensured the round three fixture could not go ahead.
Findings of an investigation into Les Bleus’ outbreak were approved by the French Government on Friday after sports minister Roxana Maracineanu had initially threatened to withdraw the team from the tournament.
“The protocols protects well or even very well, but zero risk does not exist,” Galthie said ahead of the ‘Le Crunch’ fixture.
“I think it’s part of the exposure that we must assume as a French rugby team, very popular, very exposed, very in light and therefore we must accept that we can hear what is being said without turning away.”
A meeting last week between French Rugby Federation president Bernard Laporte, education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer and Maracineanu resulted in France being given the green light to continue playing.
It has emerged Galthie left the squad’s bubble on the opening weekend to watch his son play rugby, while players also went out to eat waffles when in Rome to play Italy, but Les Bleus have been cleared of any wrongdoing with the safety measures in place called “well developed” by Blanquer.
France’s head coach added: “I repeat it, all my actions, all our actions, were in compliance with the sanitary protocol.
“Of course it is very important everything is in the report. It is enough to just take the report and read the report that has been validated by the French Rugby Federation.
“It is also an opportunity to salute the French Rugby Federation, the institution and Bernard Laporte. Everything was also validated by the Ministry of National Education. There is not much to add.”
Galthie started his press conference by individually listing a number of staff before he paid tribute to their efforts in ensuring France could continue their Six Nations campaign.
Four changes have been made to the XV which won in Ireland on Valentine’s Day, with centre Virimi Vakatawa and winger Teddy Thomas returning to replace Arthur Vincent and Gabin Villiere, who both fail to make the squad.
Romain Taofifenua is recalled for the injured Bernard Le Roux, while Dylan Cretin plays ahead of Anthony Jelonch in the back row.
Star scrum-half Antoine Dupont, captain Charles Ollivon, Cyril Baille, Julien Marchand, Mohamed Haouas and Brice Dulin have all recovered from Covid-19 to retain their starting roles with France aiming to make it three wins from three this weekend.
“From the beginning of the episode, almost all the players we were in daily contact, the players who were affected, but the others also waiting,” Galthie explained.
“And the staff focused on the next step, preparing for the match first of Scotland, which was then pushed back and then the England match. We had very little time in fact to procrastinate and we are really committed to the project.
“I repeat we are very exposed, the France team is very exposed, very popular. A recent poll talked about the love of the French for this team of France and therefore we can actually understand everything there is around.
“And accept of course and hear the reviews. They have been positive for almost now two years but also the other side, it’s part of our mission.”
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now