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what to retain from the Tournament of the XV of France?

“A little knocked out”. The words chosen by Gregory Alldritt Friday night after the defeat on the wire against Scotland (23-27). A few hours earlier, the Blues were still dreaming of winning the Six Nations Tournament. For that, they needed to win with the offensive bonus and 21 points difference. But the step was too high and the Blues finally finished second in the competition. From euphoria to sadness, the Blues and their supporters will have gone through all the emotions since the beginning of February. Here are some points to remember from the Tournoi des Tricolores.

Flaming endings

Whether they made you want to jump for joy on your sofa or shed a few tears, the end of the Blues’ matches did not leave spectators indifferent or spare their hearts. Against Ireland, we had to hold on, not crack to keep these two small points ahead and win in Dublin, ten years after the last victory on Irish soil (15-13). Against England this time, the test of Maro Itoje three minutes from the end of the meeting had allowed the English to win on the wire (23-20). Then against the Welsh, the fate had turned to the advantage of the French with a last try from Brice Dulin after the siren (32-30). A test synonymous with hope: the Blues could go for the victory of the Tournament against Scotland the following week. We finally know the rest.

If these endings do honor to the best suspenseful films, they testify above all to the lack of mastery of the Blues. Physical deficit, lack of lucidity and concentration, the reasons are numerous, but they are cause for concern. The choices of the staff are also to be highlighted. Against England for example, the substitutes had come into play very late while their teammates on the ground no longer seemed very fresh.

Huge room for improvement

No one doubts it: this French team is holding a golden generation. Antoine Dupont, Matthieu Jalibert, Romain Ntamack, Grégory Alldritt, Arthur Vincent, to name a few, are young players with indisputable talents. But they still have to progress to compete with the best and above all to win titles. “We have to let this team mature and move forward. This defeat will make them grow. It’s a good lesson, it hurts a lot, it proves our limits. We have to keep working. We have two years to become more efficient,” supported Eric Blanc, the rugby consultant of Europe 1, Friday evening. Because in 2023, the World Cup will take place in France and the tricolor XV will be more than expected. “These mistakes make us grow. It’s up to us to learn from these adventures and come back stronger. […] We will take stock (of the match against Scotland) more coldly, it is not easy. We will learn from this somewhat cruel scenario but we will come back stronger, “said captain Charles Ollivon after the meeting.

A solid framework

There was a time when the composition of the XV of France could change completely in a weekend. But those days now seem to be over. Since his arrival at the head of the France team, Fabien Galthié has been working to build a team for the long term. He wants his group to evolve and grow together. And players have shown him during this Tournament that he can trust them. Matthieu Jalibert, for example, perfectly fulfilled his role of opening half, when Romain Ntamack, freshly recovered from a broken jaw, was too tight. In the second row, a position where the French pool is not the most dense, the injury of Bernard Le Roux gave some cold sweats to the tricolor staff. Here again, Romain Taofifenua did not tremble. In the third row, Dylan Cretin and Anthony Jelonch also showed that the XV of France had different profiles, ideal to adapt the team to his opponent. Bodes well for the future.

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A “Covid episode” that tarnishes the image of the XV of France

In the Tournament version 2021, there will have been especially rugby, but also extra-sporting episodes which logically result from the current health situation. Many cases of Covid, among players and staff members, will result in the postponement of the match against Scotland. The health bubble set up around the French rugby team has not turned out to be as impermeable as it should be. The speeches of Bernard Laporte, President of the French Rugby Federation, Roxana Maracineanu, the Minister for Sports, but also Jean-Michel Blanquer, Minister of Education, on whom the Ministry of Sports depends.

An inglorious episode for the image of French rugby, and which will inevitably have brought its share of consequences on the sporting level. Contaminated players or contact cases were placed in isolation and therefore deprived of training. Some haven’t played for a month. Not the best preparation for the game against the English. It is also from that moment that the Blues seemed to show a less well physical blow.

A second place despite everything

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Despite the many adventures crossed by the XV of France, Fabien Galthié can, two years after taking office, present a positive assessment. Like last year, the Blues finished second in the Six Nations Tournament. Such results at the start of his term had not happened to a coach since Jean-Claude Skrela at the end of the 90s. On the bench of the Blues, Fabien Galthié lost only four of his first fifteen meetings.

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