After the summer tour canceled last season, the French rugby team is heading back to the southern hemisphere to play three test matches in Australia. The first clash between the French and Australians, Wednesday, July 7, was moved from Sydney to Brisbane after the establishment of a new containment in the largest city in the country.
For Fabien Galthié, this tour is an opportunity to continue the construction of a XV of France in full revival, with the numerous absences of executives to be counted, and which remains on two consecutive second places during the Six Nations Tournament.
Blues among the Blues
Forced to compose a list without the Toulouse (Dupont, Ntamack …) and Rochelais (Aldritt, Dulin …) finalists of the Top 14 as well as many executives left at rest or injured (Ollivon, Fickou …), Fabien Galthié made the choice to take a reorganized and “rejuvenated” group of 42 then 41 players (with the package of Alexandre Fischer). One way to reshuffle the cards with 22 novice players at this level and where only eleven names were already present at the last Six Nations Tournament.
The Castres third-line Anthony Jelonch, named captain, the wingers Damian Penaud and Teddy Thomas, the center Arthur Vincent or the second line Romain Taofifenua (30 years old) with 25 capes on the clock, are even old figures in this rejuvenated group. With 24 years and six selections of average, this XV of France “new look” will play the first match of the Fabien Galthié era in the southern hemisphere.
Among the eight players with zero selection, the Castres hooker Gaëtan Barlot (24 years old) and the Perpignan rear Melvyn Jaminet (21), who played in Pro D2 this season, will make their big debut in the starting fifteen. The Blues will then face Australia twice: on July 13 in Melbourne and on July 17 in Brisbane again.
A new challenge for the Galthié method
This summer tour is also a way for the French staff, reinforced by the arrival of Frédéric Michalak, to launch healthy competition without pressure within the Blues, against the seventh nation in the world (the Blues are fifth). In the past, players like Maxime Machenaud and Brice Dulin in 2012, Thierry Dusautoir in 2006, Dimitri Szarzewski in 2004 or Yannick Jauzion in 2001 had taken advantage of these summer test-matches to take their first steps in the battered jersey of the rooster.
Used to revealing new faces since taking office as coach after the 2019 World Cup, coach Fabien Galthié must once again express his qualities of adaptation to the circumstances, as during the Autumn Nations Cup in November and last December. Several meetings where the 52-year-old technician had successfully mixed his compositions between executives and new selected, for a record of three victories and only one defeat.
A faculty of “express” integration that he hopes to reiterate during this tour: “Gaëtan (Barlot) had a very good season with Castres. Melvyn (Jaminet) has a particular, very interesting course, he exploded with the USAP in Pro D2 this season and he confirmed his full potential with us during training . […] We think they are the best team in our group of 41 players after 17 days of work “, he declared on Monday in a press conference.
31 years of famine on Australian soil
After a preparation disrupted by the obligation of a sanitary fortnight on their arrival in Australia, the players and members of the staff of the XV of France are preparing to challenge them also Wallabies under construction and deprived of their usual hinge Nic White-James O’Connor. An Australian team “more physical, more aggressive, more focused on intensity and the desire to carry the ball than on tactics, occupation and management“, explained, Monday, Fabien Galthié.
Seven years after their last tour in Australia where the French had not existed in three games (36-95 in cumulative score), these Blues “new generation” can rely on a new state of mind, ideas of game offensives and a desire not to feed an inferiority complex vis-à-vis the nations of the South. For their last face-to-face, in November 2016, at the Stade de France, the players of Guy Novès were slightly inclined 25-23.
Of the 22 confrontations between France and Australia that took place “Down Under”, the Blues have won only four times, for a draw and 17 defeats. A long series of eleven losses in a row among the Wallabies has stretched for three decades, since the last French victory in Australia dates back to June 30, 1990, with a score of 28-19. Galthié and his men therefore have the opportunity to erase this long scarcity by rediscovering if possible this old-fashioned “French flair” which accompanied the Blues during their last victory in Australia..
Wednesday July 7: Australia-France, in Brisbane, at 12:00 p.m.
Tuesday July 13: Australia-France, in Melbourne, at 12:00 p.m.
Saturday July 17: Australia-France, in Brisbane, at 12:00 p.m.