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France snubbing New Zealand tour shows the difference in priorities

Antoine Dupont celebrate holding the Bouclier de Brennus (Brennus Shield) trophy after winning the French Top14 rugby union final match between Stade Toulousain Rugby (Toulouse) and Stade Rochelais (La Rochelle) at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, in the northern outskirts of Paris, on June 17, 2023. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP via Getty Images)

Fabien Galthie has provided a timely reminder that real professional rugby does exist in some places.

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Galthie, the France coach, has indicated that he will bring an understrength side to play the All Blacks in New Zealand next year.

“We want to work hand in hand with the league and the clubs,’’ Galthie said of his attitude to the Top 14.

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“Our goal is for players to be able to give the best of themselves in the French team, but also in club. We want to go further while taking into account the challenges of the clubs.’’

So, for matches in 2025 against the All Blacks that are simply being staged to fulfil test windows and television schedules, he’s likely to leave his 20 best players behind.

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If it was the Six Nations or a Rugby World Cup or the World Rugby Nations Championship, when that gets off the ground, you’d assume Galthie’s actions would be different.

But obligations to club owners, fans and the integrity of the Top 14 itself demand that players participate as fully in club football as they’re able.

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After all, it’s not as if this trip to New Zealand counts for anything.

Isn’t that refreshing? Isn’t that an example of how club competitions should be treated? Isn’t that yet another illustration of why Super Rugby Pacific simply isn’t a competition people should take seriously?

We watched the Rebels wave goodbye to Super Rugby the other day.

It’s easy to think they were poorly run individually or that Rugby Australia gave them inadequate support.

But the truth is the Rebels ceased to remain a viable commodity, because Super Rugby isn’t a viable commodity.

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Only it could be, if New Zealand Rugby didn’t insist upon restricting the participation of its best players or sending a sprinkling on Japanese sabbatical.

That’s what kills competitions, as Galthie alluded to.

Hopefully the Nations Championship will matter, just as the Rugby World Cup already does. But, in between those assignments and a British & Irish Lions tour every 12 years, what are we actually saving our players for?

Surely not to beat the ordinary-looking England team that’s about to arrive on our shores?

Super Rugby should be a good competition and plenty of people will argue it was once upon a time. Probably the best on the planet in fact.

Right up until we decided that everything had to be about the All Blacks.

I applaud Galthie for his pragmatism and ability to see the bigger picture.

To a degree he’s got no choice, given the ownership model in the Top 14.

But that doesn’t diminish the fact that putting All Black interests over and above every other facet of rugby has not served New Zealand well.

Healthy, competitive competitions don’t have teams fall by the wayside, the way the Rebels have. They don’t carry teams for season upon season who have little hope of making the playoffs, let alone winning the title.

Real professional competitions demand the participation of their highest-paid players, rather than sending them off for another rest.

Galthie and the French hierarchy recognise that and have cut their cloth to fit.

I think the overall health of rugby in these parts would be enhanced by similar thinking.

Watch the exclusive reveal-all episode of Walk the Talk with Ardie Savea as he chats to Jim Hamilton about the RWC 2023 experience, life in Japan, playing for the All Blacks and what the future holds. Watch now for free on RugbyPass TV

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Comments

75 Comments
U
Utiku Old Boy 33 days ago

Some might say the French hate to lose consistently down under and fear playing the ABs on their own turf. Keeping their best players at home gives them a valid excuse. Club rugby in the north is not entertaining for me but means something to local fans who are multitude. A better product is the international game and imo SRP. To each his own. World cups do count for something and France has yet to reach that pinnacle - despite all the reasons (excuses) for not getting there. You are only as good as your last game and the record book tells the story. France is cow-towing to clubs under the cover of fearing the ABs. If the ABs sent a second tier side to the NH, it would be a hollow experience for opponents and crowds yet this writer is lauding the French decision. Spurious.

T
Troy 34 days ago

I don't know who's the bigger fool in this article - Fabien Galthie or Hamish Boswell. Galthie for not pitting his best side against the ABs and try to emulate the ‘94 French team and actually win something outside of their own back yard ( to back up their claims of superiority), or Bidwell for conveniently overlooking the fact that the clubs in the NH hold their test rugby to ransom in demanding control over the players. For all his waffling on about how good their competition is - how many NH teams played in the World Cup final?

S
Scott 34 days ago

Someone tell Hamish Boswell that the privately-owned English Premiership have had 3 premier teams go bankrupt and fold including one of its flagship clubs- London Wasps.

But I guess facts get in the way of fiction frequently.

E
Ed the Duck 34 days ago

Pinning your hopes on the Nations Championship being taken as seriously as the World Cup, good luck with that one…

As for SR, can someone explain why it’s the shortest professional league in…well any sport ever???

s
stephen. 35 days ago

You'll soon change your tune if they were to lose that series. Since when was a rugby tour to New Zealand a non-event. In

J
Jmann 35 days ago

France have never won a RWC and failed to do so at home. NZ have won 3 (and probably should have won 6 if we’re honest). Hey France… you continue being you ;)

J
Jen 35 days ago

Cancel the games. If it’s too hard for the French to rustle up a full-strength side or they don’t care enough about it then let’s just can it.

R
Red and White Dynamight 35 days ago

France never send a full strength squad down under. Ever. But they always insist on a full strength AB team to tour France.

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Jon 35 days ago

But obligations to club owners, fans and the integrity of the Top 14 itself demand that players participate as fully in club football as they’re able.
Well, no, actually it doesn’t. France follow a similar scheme to NZ, Galthie said this process is shared between clubs and nation. Just like with NZ.

What is different of course is that the clubs bring in the money in France, and in NZ it is the All Blacks. So obviously the balance will similarly parallel each other.

The topic that the author hints at returning to, is the age old debate between the chicken and the egg. AB will continue to earn the bread if that is the way NZR chooses things to be run, and we’ll have to see who the next CEO is before we think they might start getting some balls to move that makeup more towards the domestic game.

M
MattJH 35 days ago

I feel that for rugby, the international game is the pinnacle and the most interesting.
Well, it is here. For other countries or other sports it is the club game, and the international side is the cherry on top.
So yeah it makes sense for France- no one in France really minds if their team gets beaten unless it’s a World Cup- but for NZers the All Blacks have to win every game and win them well.
For years the problem was the ABs can’t win a World Cup.
The public demanded a change so the powers that be worked out a way o make them as successful as possible (last nightmarish 4 years of foster aside).
So, do we want awesome club comps and an ABs side that just plays like everyone else?

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