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Teddy Thomas' faith in 'cracking' successor to Antoine Dupont

By Willy Billiard
La Rochelle's French wing Teddy Thomas reacts during the French Top 14 rugby union match between Racing 92 and La Rochelle at the Paris La Defense Arena in Nanterre, north-west of Paris on November 26, 2023. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP) (Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images)

Even though he hasn’t worn the Les Bleus jersey since 17 July 2021 in Australia, international winger Teddy Thomas hasn’t missed a single moment of the French team’s progress, especially in the 2024 Guiness Men’s Six Nations.

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He is as delighted as anyone by the 45-24 victory over Wales on Saturday 9 March in Cardiff on the penultimate day of the tournament.

“I’m very happy for them because a lot of criticism was levelled at them after the draw with Italy,” he says in the 7th episode of the BastaShow with Mathieu Bastareaud, to watch exclusively on the RugbyPassFR YouTube channel.

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“I think the players were keen to show their true colours. They did it at the Millennium Stadium in the best possible way. Scoring 40 points there is something to remember in our careers.

“They played some great rugby, and it was great to see them play. They had nothing to lose. It couldn’t have been any worse than it looked.

“I’m also happy for the players who celebrated their first cap at the Millenium, particularly George-Henri Colombe, who has been playing for Racing for a while and now for La Rochelle. I’m really pleased for them.”

The 25-year-old prop George-Henri Colombe made his mark right from his first cap. He is already being touted as the successor to Uini Atonio, with whom he plays at Stade Rochelais.

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“The quality of the players is there, as we see every weekend in the Top 14. Perhaps something didn’t go so well in the Six Nations Tournament that didn’t allow them to get the results everyone was expecting, but they were there,” says Teddy Thomas, who is full of praise for another player who made his mark in this tournament: scrum-half Nolann Le Garrec.

Dupont’s successor

“Little Nono… I met him at Racing. I clicked with him straight away. For me, he’s already a cracker on the pitch and during my career I’ve rarely seen crackers. He’s too strong technically. He arrived at the age of 17 and he was already talking into the forwards’ mouths and the forwards couldn’t stand him anymore.

“The 9s at the time spoke really badly. He spoke well but he was very bossy and that helped him get to the level he deserved to be at. I’m happy for him and I’m convinced that this is the start of great things for him.”

A performance that prompted former French international Jean-Baptiste Lafond to say: “Dupont, he can play rugby 7s for ten years, there’s no problem, there’s a replacement! One train can hide another.”

Unsurprisingly, Le Garrec has been returned with the XV de France for the final match of the Tournament against England in Lyon on Saturday 16 March. Thanks to the victory in Cardiff, the competition is back on track for Les Bleus, adding extra spice to this eagerly-awaited Crunch.

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33 - 31
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England
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“We couldn’t have hoped for a better finish,” smiles Teddy Thomas.

“I’ve done two or three crunches (in 2020 and 2021). I must have a ratio of more losses than wins (one win and one loss). These are special matches, France-England. You see them when you’re young and it’s the same rivalry on the pitch when you play them.

“They really are our sworn enemies. The English have some trash talk where they like to tease, they talk a lot, but that’s also their strength. But then, when you get to know them at club level, having played with a few English players, they’re not like that at all.

“They’re competitive, it’s part of their culture, you have to accept it. It’s part of the game. That’s what makes you want to play them and watch the game.”

“If they call me, I’ll be there”

Although he hasn’t played for almost three years, does the 30-year-old still see himself in blue one day?

“It’s still a goal for me, because it’s not pointless for me to say that I’d retire from international rugby. As long as I’m active and can perform, if I’m called up, I’ll be there, because it’s always a pleasure to wear the blue jersey,” he says.

“But I’m more towards the end of my career than the beginning. There are players in place who are really good every weekend. They’re part of a continuity until the World Cup in Australia. I’ll be 33 and I’ll be 34.

“They’re younger than me. You have to be realistic and say that there are guys who perform better than you, who are younger and fresher. I was in the same situation when I was 19, taking the place of older guys.

“I’m thinking about it because if there’s a need I’ll be there, but I’m not making it my priority like I did before.”

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