France 'tired of waiting' for elusive RWC crown
New Years is a special occasion where everyone gets to usher in a new chapter along with family and friends. But for the rugby world, the start of 2023 meant that little bit more.
As the world said goodbye to the year that was, the global rugby community turned their attention towards the World Cup.
History will be made in France later this year as 20 rugby nations prepare to chase the sports ultimate prize at the Rugby World Cup.
Childhood dreams will either be realised or shattered, as four years of patience and analysis comes to a definitive end.
This is it.
While the All Blacks and Springboks are once again among the favourites, the Northern Hemisphere has never been this threatening across the board.
Ireland will start the World Cup year as the world’s top ranked side, while France is on an incredible unbeaten run that dates back to 2021.
In fact, Les Bleus are widely considered to be the favourites for this year’s tournament – which promises to be the most competitive Rugby World Cup yet.
France have fallen agonisingly short of World Cup success on three occasions, as they lost the final in 1987, 1999 and 2011. The record books suggest that they make the final every 12 years – so they’re due for another appearance this year should history repeat.
Les Bleus have also placed third once and fourth twice.
But as they prepare for their third World Cup on home soil, there is genuine belief that this is the year they finally break their drought.
As reported by French rugby newspaper Midi Olympique, French rugby supporters are tired of waiting for their team to “finally lift this World Cup.”
“Everyone is tired of waiting. France is the last world superpower to have never won the World Cup,” the newspaper read, as reported by the All Blacks website.
“But, it has been offered the opportunity to finaly win, on its own soil.
“Our supporters are only waiting for one thing: that we finally life this World Cup.”
Make no mistake, this French team is very good.
France played 10 test matches last year, and they won them all. And these victories didn’t come against minnows either, as they defeated some of the sports traditional powerhouses.
After winning the Grand Slam early in 2022, France continued to dominate international rugby throughout the Autumn Nations Series.
Their best result of the Autumn came against the Springboks, where they held on for a four-point win after captain and star scrumhalf Antoine Dupont was red carded.
Dupont, who won World Rugby’s Player of the Year in 2021, admitted that “there is pressure” on his side ahead of the World Cup.
“Of course, there is pressure, but it is a source of motivation for us,” Dupont said.
“It’s a mix of emotions that we have to control.
“This World Cup, we all want to play in and win it, like our competitors.
“But, until then, we have many deadlines to continue to toughen up and approach this competition with maximum confidence, experience and calm.”
Consistency has been France’s Achilles heels at World Cups since the first iteration of the tournament in 1987.
Les Bleus could be simply brilliant one week, and a shadow of their former selves the next.
In 2011, the eventual runners-up went on to lose the final to hosts New Zealand by just one point after suffering a shock defeat to Tonga in pool play.
“We know how difficult it is. No team from France has succeeded so far, and only New Zealand and South Africa have won on their own soil in nine World Cups,” Dupont added.
“I remember that in 2003, the Blues were among the favourites and lost in the semi-finals. However, there are other times when they weren’t expected (to win), and they made it to the final, where they could, or should, have won.
“Predictions rarely come true at World Cups. The only thing we can do is take the maximum of our chances by preparing as well as possible.”
France’s first test of this year’s World Cup is a blockbuster. In fact, it doesn’t get much bigger.
Les Bleus will look to get their tournament off to an idyllic start when they take on traditional rivals New Zealand in the opener.
The All Blacks have beaten France in two World Cup finals (1987 & 2011), but Kiwi rugby fans won’t be forgetting the quarterfinal in 2007 anytime soon.
This match promises to be another historic chapter in one of the greatest World Cup rivalries in the sport.
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