France are surfing the wave of an unbeaten two-round start to the Six Nations. Last crowned champions in 2010 when they completed the clean sweep and achieved the Grand Slam, the French public have reacted positively to the new regime headed by Fabien Galthie. 

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Midi Olympique are reporting that there were 1,000 supporters present at Marcoussis last Saturday for the open training, a total not reached since 2007. However, it is the level of increased TV interest in the team that highlights the rejuvenated popularity of the national team – a vitally important development with France set to host the 2023 World Cup.

France Televisions’ Mathieu Lartot has revealed there was an average audience of 5.7million people – a peak of 7m – for the opening round France versus England match and that average actually increased for the following weekend’s less glamorous encounter with Italy, an average of 5.8m and a peak of 6.8. 

“It’s spectacular,” said Lartot, comparing this February’s numbers with viewing figures in France for the 2019 Six Nations. 

“On average over the five games, we were 4m viewers throughout the tournament. Today, in two games including the one against Italy, which is usually the one that generates the least enthusiasm, we are already just over 5.7 million on average. To find these audiences, you have to go back ten years.

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“There was a phenomenon of curiosity with the first game and this success started a dynamic among the supporters. It’s a virtuous circle. Victory attracts viewers. I’m sure we’ll explode those first two scores in the next game against the Welsh. 

“The meeting schedule will be favourable for us. A Saturday at 5:45pm (French time) is perfect for us. Mechanically, there are always more people watching their television at this time. We should, therefore, cross the bar of six million viewers.”

The hope is that the numbers won’t stop increasing there. France are in the habit of losing their round three match after an unbeaten start to the campaign. There were defeated at Wales in 2016 and 2014, and in England in 2011 following wins in the opening two rounds.  

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However, Lartot believes that if France can get over the Welsh next Saturday in Cardiff and then pick off Scotland at Murrayfield, an incredible number of French people would tune in for the final round match at home to Ireland. 

“The closer we get to the final goal, namely a final victory in the Six Nations tournament, the more people there will be in front of the television. 

“Imagine if the XV of France faces Ireland in the last match in prime time for the Grand Slam, I think we can make eight million viewers, with perhaps a peak at 10 million which would be a colossal figure.

“I think we have to go back to the early 2000s (for those numbers), In my memory, the only game that has done more in the recent past is France-Ireland from 2012 which was postponed. 

“For a quarter of an hour, we had kept the antenna to explain the situation and we had, from memory, 7.5m viewers whom we kept in suspense with all the drama of the moment.”

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