Rugby World Cup 2023 in FrancedossierAt the end of a crushing victory (96-0), marked by the injury of the French captain, coach Fabien Galthié assumes the strategic choice of having aligned his best elements in Marseille.
The controversy will appear as vain as it is inevitable: was it necessary to align the quintessence of French rugby against a team as poor as Namibia, of which no one imagined for a single second that it could worry one of the three great favorites of the World Cup? world ? Leaving the captains in flip-flops was to deprive them of a necessary effusion, before returning to a medium-sized squad, Italy, then a super-heavyweight in the quarter-final (probably South Africa or Italy). Ireland). Make them gallop on the lawn of the Stade-Vélodrome in Marseille and they run the risk of injury, always very real in rugby.
In the 45th minute of a match which was already over before it had started, and which, in fact, the Blues were outrageously dominating, Antoine Dupont was violently hit in the face by the third row and captain of Namibia, Johan Deysel. A brutal gesture, punished with a red card, closer to clumsiness than outright aggression, but which turns France upside down: with a suspicion of a crack or fracture of the jaw, an entire country is holds his breath at the idea that the captain of the XV of France, essential leader and head of the gondola (including at the marketing level) of a carefully crafted plan of conquest, may not continue the adventure as planned.
“Everyone wanted to play this match”
When commenting on a victory that is nevertheless historic, from a strict accounting point of view (the largest of the XV of France, 96-0, with a record of points at half-time, 54, and fourteen tries scored at the discretion of ‘a serious performance from start to finish), the coach, Fabien Galthié, was therefore called to account: “We won in front of a fantastic crowd, there is something irrational in this stadium. But you’re never happy when a player gets injured. We are still concerned […]. What do you want me to tell you? We had planned one to five changes at half-time, the rest around the 55th minute. I can’t release fifteen players at the same time. The goal was to get playing time.”
Then, as if fatalism was not enough, the boss of the XV of France extended the pole, in a funny tone, obviously intended to play down the situation, to Charles Ollivon, who had in the meantime inherited this captain’s armband which gave him had initially been entrusted, from 2020, before Dupont established itself in everyone’s eyes. Asking Toulon’s third row if he too wanted to take part in the match, the answer obviously didn’t give a single answer: “Of course, the whole team wanted to be part of this match, it was important, capital”… at the risk and peril of the competitors, the bearded fellow philosophized. “At the moment, we don’t see what’s happening. But with the image of the shock, on the big screen, we understood that the head was hit. Right away, the message was simple and clear for everyone: get back in working order […] without procrastinating. These are incidents of matches that happen often, there are small [à signaler, ici, des inquiétudes a priori sans conséquence, pour Uini Atonio et Paul Boudehent, ndlr] and major injuries. It’s part of the job.”
“Regenerate with loved ones”
A sound of bells that we also heard from fullback Thomas Ramos, forced to inject into the legitimate satisfaction (“a full match, where we enjoy ourselves in attack, while conceding zero points”), provided by a victory pantagruelian, an honest dose of lucidity (“Namibia has a lot of fans, we have to remain realistic in the face of the difference in level between the two teams”). Just as the Stade Toulouse fullback, therefore also a club partner of Antoine Dupont, did not fail to express concern shrouded in compassion at the mention of an injury which, an hour after the final whistle , no one knew the exact nature, nor the possible consequences for the morale of the troops.
With a total of thirteen points in the standings, in three matches, France remains at the top of Group A, in which it only has one match left to play, against Italy, on Saturday October 6. Immediately, the players are entitled to three free days, which will allow them to “regenerate with family and loved ones,” concedes Thomas Ramos. “We will also take the opportunity to establish personalized assessments, on a physical and psychological level, then we will return to a week of training, to continue to develop ourselves, before focusing on Italy,” explains Fabien Galthié. A break which could also prove providential for the now most famous cripple in the territory.