Six Nations: a new golden age for French rugby?

The Six Nations entered their final weekend with a team that was “way ahead of the pack,” said Robert Kitson The Observer. France, easily the ‘best team of the tournament’, had won their first four games – meaning only England stood between them and their first Grand Slam since 2010. And in front of a jubilant crowd at the Stade de France, Les Bleus got the win they needed despite having to work unexpectedly hard to get there. England “offered strong resistance and an occasionally productive kick-chasing game” while a clearly nervous French side made far more handling errors than usual. But in the end, the home team’s all-court game was simply superior and they won 25:13. A victory that will have had an ominous effect on the world. France are set to host next year’s Rugby World Cup – and given that evidence, they’ll be taking some breaks.

Indeed, winning the 2023 World Cup has become something of a “national project for the French,” Andy Bull said in The guard. It’s a task that has prompted all of French rugby to pull together after more than “ten years of bickering”. Under Bernard Laporte’s presidency, the French rugby federation has implemented several much-needed reforms – including reducing the number of foreign players allowed in domestic leagues and investing heavily in the country’s youth organisation. And with Fabien Galthié, the national team clearly has a coach of superlatives, said Jonathan Liew in the same paper. Galthié is a “restless, reckless and divisive” individual whose perfectionism “verges on an obsession” and is far from the typical rugby coach. Ahead of France’s recent game against Wales, he challenged the philosopher Charles Pépin to bombard his “players with gnomish rhetorical questions” including “What is a beautiful team?”. Eddie Jones, Galthié’s counterpart in England, would never consider such a thing. And yet the Frenchman’s methods obviously work.

A striking sign of how French rugby is changing is that it is no longer completely dominated by its “traditional heartlands” in the rural south and south-west, John Westerby said in The times. In recent years, an increasing “flow of talent to the national team” has come from the banlieues sprawling around Paris – the same inner-city areas that have produced “such a flood of professional footballers”. Examples in the national team include midfielder Jonathan Danty – who grew up playing for ASPTT Paris Île-de-France, a “small club surrounded by skyscrapers” – and Demba Bamba, a former junior judo champion who played in Saint-Denis grew up nearby. And with new talent constantly emerging from the field – the ‘explosive’ Jordan Joseph, who is said to be ‘one of the country’s rising stars’ to set a good example – the future of French rugby looks extremely bright. Six Nations: a new golden age for French rugby?

Fry Electronics Team

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