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France issue 'surprised' Atonio warning six weeks before World Cup

By Liam Heagney
Uini Atonio (centre) of France (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Host nation France have warned that their pre-Rugby World Cup preparation is transformed compared to four years ago when their frustrating tournament in Japan was ended at the quarter-final stage by Wales in Oita.

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That exit marked the final match of the Jacques Brunel era in charge and since Fabien Galthie has taken up the baton, all roads have been leading to the 2023 tournament that they are hosting.

France were crowned Guinness Six Nations Grand Slam champions in 2022, their first win in 12 years, and having since finished second this year to Ireland, their priority now is peaking for their September 8 World Cup opener versus the All Blacks in Paris.

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That is a blockbuster fixture to kick off the action in a pool that also features Italy, Uruguay and Namibia and the reports coming out of France six weeks before they take on New Zealand are that everything is on track following the completion of their first preparation block.

Ahead of their schedule of warm-up matches which commence with the August 5 trip to Edinburgh to take on Scotland, performance director Thibault Giroud has given his verdict on the progress so far of Galthie’s squad and what he had to say should put the world on warning that France are very much title contenders.

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“This week we reach the end of the first block and the guys really play the game,” he told French media on Thursday. “We could have had a few guys parked today, nobody did. They stripped themselves. It’s great. The players hate me even more, but they do the job. These are special moments to live in a preparation. For some players, I didn’t expect this level of involvement.

“Uini Atonio, for example, we always asked ourselves the question of how we were going to be able to adapt it to be able to bring it to the end. And he didn’t miss a single session, he gave everything he could give.

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“There wasn’t a single time we thought we were going to adapt because he couldn’t do it. I am pleasantly surprised at what it produces.

“We ask a lot of them, we flirt with their limits to develop qualities in a fairly short time, but the guys respond and give their all every day.

“We knew we would have fewer injuries than four years ago because we have brought the players for four and a half years to what we wanted to be at the top of this World Cup preparation. We are reaping the fruits of work that has been carried out over the past four years.

“What is important for us is to see that we started at 42, today we have 41 players working, only one is ‘out’ [Francois Cros]. Four years ago, it was not the same story. We always had between 10 and 15 guys outside.

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“Everyone works as well as possible while adapting the sessions as well as possible for the players who need them. After a month of very intense work, it’s great.

“This morning [Thursday], we had a lot of guys in the red, we brought them gradually on this day, we did not want to overdo the afternoon session at all and everyone was there, no one hid.

“We are not going to lie, this preparation is made so that we can touch an important peak for the opening match against New Zealand. We have to be at our best for this match.”

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Comments

11 Comments
D
Damian 318 days ago

So they play Scotland X 2 Fiji and Australia before facing NZ in the opening game of RWC- is that really a great build up b4 facing ABs? I mean seriously? Argentina and RSA much better prep for the Allblacks surely? The Fijians will test them but the Scots and Aus...nuff said.

R
Roydon 319 days ago

Lol you got lucky against Sa with a try that should never have been awarded.

B
Bob 320 days ago

Ominous signs - the French will be difficult to beat with that level of preparation.

P
Pecos 320 days ago

Lolol what?

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