Ex-England international Nick Abendanon is predicting great things for France under Fabien Galthie. The 34-year-old, who was twice capped by England in 2007, is now playing at Pro D2 Vannes after numerous years starring in the Clermont team that consistently challenged for Top 14 and European titles.
France have not won a Six Nations title since 2010, a famine during which time current champions England have collected four titles and Ireland and Wales have won three championships apiece.
However, last season’s second-place finish featuring four wins from five matches was the best season for France since their Grand Slam eleven years ago and Abendanon has got a sense that things are very different under Galthie compared to previous regimes under the likes of Jacques Brunel, Guy Noves and Philippe Saint-Andre.
“There is a lot of youth coming through and they have kept a good core of that team for a couple of years,” said Abendanon to RugbyPass ahead of France’s round two game on Sunday away to Ireland following their comprehensive opening weekend win away to Italy.
“They have got some serious threats. (Antoine) Dupont is probably the best nine in the world at the moment and when he is on form that whole backline and forward pack, they get over the line and they just click. (Charles) Ollivon as well, the captain, is an unbelievable workhorse.
"He played scrum-half and wore a scrum cap. Never a good sign"
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) February 6, 2021
“It just seems like they are enjoying their rugby again. You talked to a lot of the French guys when I was at Clermont about going to camps and they were all coming back just hating it, they were drained and it was just an absolute slog but I get a feeling that this is different now. They actually enjoy going over there to train and be together as a team – and that is definitely showing in the way they are playing.”
Asked about the influence of Galthie, who took charge last year and has a record so far of eight wins in ten matches, Abendanon added: “It is interesting, I have heard some horror stories about him as well but he has proven himself with different clubs in the past and it seems like he has got a good formula in place with the coaches he has got around him.
“The French have always got a big budget so he has got everything at his disposal to make that team as successful as England have become under Eddie Jones. If they keep that core group of the players in that team together for the few years they are going to be definitely one of the favourites going into the World Cup in France.”
'I stood there shocked and the No8 on the other team, a player from Ivory Coast, ran across the scrum trying to fight me'
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) February 7, 2021
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now