Select Edition

Northern Northern
Southern Southern
Global Global
NZ NZ

'Is it a happy squad?': Making sense of what is going on with France

By Josh Raisey
French huddle ahead of kick-off in the Six Nations international rugby union match between Scotland and France at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh, Scotland on February 10, 2024. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP) (Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

France may have come away with a win on Saturday against Scotland at Murrayfield, but so far this Guinness Six Nations they have been far from the side that the rugby world has grown accustomed to in recent years.

ADVERTISEMENT

A record loss to Ireland in round one was followed by a listless display in Edinburgh saved by a late moment of magic from Louis Bielle-Biarrey and and devilishly complex TMO call.

There is one obvious explanation for this slump from France, and that is Antoine Dupont’s absence this Championship while he focuses on sevens. Alongside Romain Ntamack’s long-term knee injury, as well as Anthony Jelonch’s (and now even Gregory Alldritt’s), Les Bleus have had the spine of their team ripped from them.

Video Spacer

TRY or NO TRY – Boks Office discuss Scotland vs France | RPTV

In the latest episode of Boks Office, the guys and special guest Matt Stevens chat about the late drama in the Six Nations clash between Scotland and France. Watch the full episode on RugbyPass TV now

Watch now

Video Spacer

TRY or NO TRY – Boks Office discuss Scotland vs France | RPTV

In the latest episode of Boks Office, the guys and special guest Matt Stevens chat about the late drama in the Six Nations clash between Scotland and France. Watch the full episode on RugbyPass TV now

Watch now

But their problems may lie deeper than that, as the Boks Office recently discussed on RugbyPass TV.

Former Springboks Hanyani Shimange and Jean de Villiers were joined by ex England prop Matt Stevens to go over the latest round of Six Nations rugby, including France’s current struggles. The former centre de Villiers feels they may be suffering a “hangover” from crashing out of their own World Cup at the quarter-final stage to his compatriots, while explaining the mental hammer-blow that would have been to the team.

Match Summary

3
Penalty Goals
2
1
Tries
2
1
Conversions
2
0
Drop Goals
0
125
Carries
89
3
Line Breaks
3
12
Turnovers Lost
15
5
Turnovers Won
5

“They’re lacking confidence,” the 2007 World Cup winner said.

“A lot of people have said, it’s the hangover of the World Cup and the expectation of the World Cup, not being able to deliver on that. You kind of get the feeling that that’s what you’re seeing from that French team. Then you start asking these questions- is that really going on? Is it a happy squad? Can they recover?

“And maybe also understanding the mental side of what they went through- they were certain that they would win the World Cup. It definitely comes across that way. And the disappointment of that, the mental side of high-performance sport and the effect that it has when you don’t live up to the expectations.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Stevens, who spent the final year of his career in France playing for Toulon, added: “France, it’s an old cliche, but they’re a very emotive sporting country. Having played there, there’s a lot of passion and not a huge amount of strategy that goes into getting ready for a game.

“It’s like ‘this is our earth, this is what we’re going to protect, we’re going to go there and die for our country.’ Then they lose someone who was quite critical in Antoine Dupont. They’re a big talisman team, which I always think is a weakness for an international team, which is the opposite of Ireland who have got depth and experience across the pitch.”

Fabien Galthie’s side resume their Six Nations campaign next weekend against Italy in Lille before facing Wales in Cardiff and hosting England in Lyon in the final round.

Related

ADVERTISEMENT

Join free

Chasing The Sun | Series 1 Episode 1

Fresh Starts | Episode 1 | Will Skelton

ABBIE WARD: A BUMP IN THE ROAD

Aotearoa Rugby Podcast | Episode 9

James Cook | The Big Jim Show | Full Episode

New Zealand victorious in TENSE final | Cathay/HSBC Sevens Day Three Men's Highlights

New Zealand crowned BACK-TO-BACK champions | Cathay/HSBC Sevens Day Three Women's Highlights

Japan Rugby League One | Bravelupus v Steelers | Full Match Replay

Trending on RugbyPass

Comments

Join free and tell us what you really think!

Sign up for free
ADVERTISEMENT

Latest Features

Comments on RugbyPass

P
Poorfour 10 hours ago
The AI advantage: How the next two Rugby World Cups will be won

AI models are really just larger and less transparent variants of the statistical models that have been in use since Moneyball was invented. And a big difference between the Icahn centre’s results and AI today is that ChatGPT-like Large Language Models can explain (to some degree) how they reached their conclusions. In terms of what impact they will have, I suspect it will have two primary impacts: 1) It will place a premium on coaching creativity 2) It will lead to more selections that baffle fans and pundits. Analysts will be able to run the models both ways: they will see their own team’s and players’ weaknesses and strengths as well as the opposition’s. So they will have a good idea at what the other team will be targeting and the decisive difference may well be which coaches are smart enough to think of a gameplan that the other side didn’t identify and prepare for. For players, it places a premium on three key things: 1) Having a relatively complete game with no major weaknesses (or the dedication to work on eliminating them) 2) Having the tactical flexibility to play a different game every week 3) Having a point of difference that is so compelling that there isn’t a defence for it. (3) is relatively rare even among pro players. There have been only a handful of players over the years where you knew what they were going to do and the problem was stopping it - Lomu would be the classic example. And even when someone does have that, it’s hard to sustain. Billy Vunipola in his prime was very hard to stop, but fell away quite badly when the toll on his body began to accumulate. So coaches will look for (1) - a lack of exploitable weaknesses - and (2) - the ability to exploit others’ weaknesses - ahead of hoping for (3), at least for the majority of the pack. Which is likely to mean that, as with the original Moneyball, competent, unshowy players who do the stuff that wins matches will win out over outrageous talents who can’t adapt to cover their own weaknesses. Which will leave a lot of people on the sidelines sputtering over the non-inclusion of players whose highlights reels are spectacular, but whose lowlight reels have been uncovered by AI… at least until the point where every fan has access to a sporting analysis AI.

18 Go to comments
FEATURE
FEATURE Who will be Robertson's choice as All Blacks captain? Who will be Robertson's choice as All Blacks captain?
Search