Of course, there was the unpleasant surprise of the injury of Damian Penaud, indisputable right winger, which upset the plans of Fabien Galthié at the last moment. But for the rest, the composition of the starting team on Sunday, February 2, against England was engraved for days on the coach’s shelves, well before the official announcement on Thursday, January 30. With two exceptions, which concern the right flank of the scrum: the right pillar (number 3) and the second straight line (number 5).
These two positions were awarded at the very last moment to Mohamed Haouas and Paul Willemse, two players used to pushing together, since they play under the colors of Montpellier.
Charles Ollivon, young courageous captain of the XV of France
The 3 and 5 are the positions furthest from the introduction of the melee ball, which is done systematically from the left. However in physics, the end of the axis of rotation of a lever is the most fragile point: in the case of a pack, it is therefore the right pillar.
In addition, this player is the only one in the fray to see nothing of the outside world, since unlike the left pillar which can keep an eye on the field, his head is trapped between the shoulders of two opposing players. “He sees nothing and he must be solid, sensitive to the invisible movements of the pack, and above all very technical, even if that is not always seen”, explains Miguel Fernandez, one of the most prominent player agents.
In the not always chivalrous intimacy of the fray, the solidity of the building sometimes depends on good or bad posture of the right pillar. A simple twist of the shoulder, an improperly locked arm key can cause a decisive advantage or, on the contrary, cost a collapse or a penalty. The last incumbents, Rabah Slimani and Uini Atonio, too often sanctioned by arbitrators, have paid the price. They were replaced on the match sheet by two inexperienced players, incumbent Mohamed Houas (0 selection) and his replacement Demba Bamba (7 selections).
Pillars, higher club salaries
Beyond the will of renewal of Fabien Galthié, who chose to make a clean sweep of the bad seasons passed, the option of two very young players to this strategic position can question. “He doesn’t really have a choice, tempers Miguel Fernandez. There is a big shortage of straight pillars in France, it is the most coveted position by the clubs. ” To be convinced, just take a look at the compositions of the fourteen teams on the last day of the Top 14, which took place on the weekend of January 25 and 26: ten foreigners for four French, a ratio that ” found in no other position.
“In France, we are rich in back and three quarter centers, in half opening and half in scrimmage, or even in the third row. There are also hookers and left pillars which are sometimes converted third lines, but we have little or no right pillars “, continues Damien Dussault, another renowned sports agent, who, like all his colleagues, spends part of his days tracking down the rare pearl. The right pillars are indeed for these intermediaries the guarantee of a good commission, since they have for several years been the best paid in the professional rugby workforce: about 20% above the average of the salaries of their fourteen teammates.
A player capable of catching three-quarters
“ It wasn’t always the case, continues Damien Dussault, but in France we have for a long time confined this post to large, not very mobile jigs, corresponding to the French style of that time. ” Sacrosanct in the French tradition, the closed melee has lost much influence in the major nations, the countries of the southern hemisphere or England, which have abandoned pure force in favor of dynamic power.
Before the match, against England, the boss of the forwards of the XV of France, William Servat, defined his right pillar as follows: “Momo (nickname Haouas) is the front player with the best travel and activity stats for Montpellier matches. Someone who can catch three-quarters of the way through the line. ” Beefy fast, therefore, this player of 1.85 m and 127 kg … This is the paradox of the position that the training centers are trying to solve by forced march, to provide the XV of France with a sufficient reservoir of these right-handers, susceptible to make and break scores.