Serge Betsen believes ego-free Shaun Edwards and “smart tactician” Fabien Galthie can drive France to break their World Cup duck in 2023.
Former France and Wasps flanker Betsen has paid tribute to head coach Galthie and assistant Edwards for restoring Les Bleus’ trademark facets of unpredictable attack and fearsome defence.
France’s new generation of talented and committed stars, led by half-backs Antoine Dupont and Roman Ntamack, forced a second-place Six Nations finish courtesy of a fine 35-27 win over Ireland in Paris on October 31.
Now Galthie’s men will kick-start their Autumn Nations Cup campaign by hosting Fiji in Vannes on Saturday, before further clashes with Scotland and Italy.
Betsen and France lost successive World Cup semi-finals to England in 2003 and 2007, while Les Bleus lost in the final in 1987, 1999 and 2011.
France will host the 2023 World Cup amid a growing resurgence, with Betsen backing his ex-Wasps coach and former Wales defence specialist Edwards to underpin a major title challenge.
Asked if France are now well-placed to win the next World Cup, Betsen told the PA news agency: “Of course, of course, I definitely believe there is room there for this France team to win it.
“The tournament will be a great opportunity to showcase France and French rugby.
“And I remember being there in 2007, winning against the All Blacks in Cardiff, and losing against England in the semi-finals; that still hurts today.
“But then we managed to go to the final in 2011 and lost in the final against the All Blacks.
“France are one of the most successful countries in the World Cup without ever winning it.
“And I definitely believe we need to break that, we need to definitely start doing something different. And hopefully it will be this time.”
France will hope to build on their return to form in the Six Nations during the inaugural Autumn Nations Cup, to be screened on Amazon Prime Video.
Betsen will be on hand offering punditry on the streaming service, with the ex-Biarritz back-rower singing the praises of new France coach Edwards.
Former Wigan star Edwards provided the defensive bedrock to Warren Gatland’s Wales set-up after a glory-laden stint with Wasps.
The 54-year-old boasts 50 winners’ medals as both player and coach, but still sought out a new challenge, joining the French set-up in November 2019.
“I really, really adore Shaun Edwards,” said Betsen.
“He was my coach at Wasps, he’s phenomenal; his mentality to defend is so important.
“When you get coached by Shaun Edwards, defence starts to become your attack. And that mindset is so important. I’m pleased that he’s part of the staff.
“He doesn’t really have any ego. He has the pride of himself and what he wants from players.
“But he’s someone who definitely can say ‘sorry, it’s my fault, and I’m going to correct that’, and then he will already have taken that on the chin, any errors.
“That makes his management also very positive.
“He doesn’t need to talk too much. He needs some time to show you what he wants from you, two or three key points of what he wants from you. And then you have to execute it.
“He wants the players to be engaged with his message, he’s definitely a good guy, and he’s not there to talk the talk; he’s there to be effective in every single thing he wants to do, or he wants the players to do.
“I was impressed by him going to France. I was telling him about the language, about how he could get on with that. And fair play, it’s not easy to change country, culture and adapt yourself as quickly has he did.
“It’s definitely something important as a person, and it showed that he can be adaptable.”
Betsen played under Galthie’s France captaincy, admitting Les Bleus’ new boss always showed his coaching potential even in his scrum-half days.
“Fabien played four World Cups and he was always a leader, he was always looking for the detail, and to be the most effective,” said Betsen.
“He has always been a very, very smart tactician, that was always a big characteristic of his.
“As a scrum-half, a tactician, I think his desire is definitely to work hard, to be understood, and give to the players a lot of conditions and a lot of assets to play the best rugby they can play.
“Fabien Galthie was part of my generation, and Raphael Ibanez was also captain for France.
“They all know the recipe of what it takes to be a great team, and I definitely believe they will put this in place step by step to take this new generation forward.”
:: Autumn Nations Cup Rugby Union is coming to Amazon Prime Video, exclusively broadcasting 13 out of 16 matches from November 14 including the tournament finals
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