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‘Important’ Michalak advice 16 years after France flunked home RWC

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Joel Saget/AFP via Getty Images)

Former France out-half Freddy Michalak has given his verdict on what Les Bleus must do to win the 2023 Rugby World Cup, unlike what happened when they previously hosted the tournament in 2007.


The 40-year-old was capped 77 times by the French in a stellar career that included participation at three finals, including 16 years ago.

Bernard Laporte’s France had an eventful experience, losing their opening match to Argentina, defeating the All Blacks in the quarter-finals before getting beaten by England in the semi-finals and ultimately finishing fourth.

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The French team now ready to play at the latest finals under Fabien Galthie come into the tournament, which begins with the September 8 clash versus the All Blacks in Paris, with an even far greater expectation about them to do well and lift the trophy.

Michalak, who started three matches in 2007 and came off the bench in three more, has now shared his thoughts on that increased level of optimism, telling Paris Vous Aime magazine: “Some of the people in coach Fabien Galthie’s staff were already there in 2007 when France were defeated by Argentina at the beginning of the tournament.

“They know exactly how to place players in the best possible conditions. The important thing is to take advantage of being there and not to isolate yourself psychologically from the event. I have full confidence in the French team who are ranked among the favourites along with South Africa, New Zealand and France.”

Now working in Paris as part of Stuart Lancaster’s new management team at Racing, Michalak expressed his enthusiasm for rugby amongst the French public.


“Paris has a long tradition,” he explained. “Take the history of five-time French champions Racing, founded in 1882. Stade Francais, who were our nemesis team when I played for Toulouse, also have a great history. Along with these two giants, there are other clubs, like Massy and PUC. Ile-de-France has a great pool of regionalised players.

“It was in Paris that ushered in a new era when players started playing professionally thanks to the brilliant communication and marketing campaigns by Max Guzzani, former president of Stade Francais.

“He created a lot of buzz with his calendars of buff rugby players, pink rugby jerseys and matches played at Stade de France. He changed rugby’s image which helped it become a popular spectator sport in its own right.

“To have Paris hosting this prestigious event is very important for French rugby, and a boon for the country’s economy. I’m delighted to promote the event and participate in projects like Campus 20234 which creates training programmes for apprentices and trains future major talents in the sports ecosystem.”


Michalak added that he hoped France 2023 would accelerate the popularity of rugby worldwide. “For the sport to grow, it must branch into new territories. For example, when rugby sevens became an Olympic sport it did a lot to popularise rugby in other countries like Kenya, Uganda, the United States, Spain, Uruguay and Hong Kong.”


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