Explore the incredible depth of France


Antoine Dupont (left) was voted Six Nations player of the tournament


When France nearly beat England in the Fall Nations Cup final in early December, the depth of French rugby became so evident.

Eddie Jones’ starting XV that day had a record total of 813 caps, while Fabien Galthié’s side had just 68, so the game basically went down to gold points. , it was a testament to the talent that France has.

This was reinforced last weekend in the first round of the Heineken Champions Cup, where seven of the eight French teams beat their opponents England, Scotland and Ireland.

It was the comments on BT Sport’s comments during Lyon’s dominance over Gloucester that struck a chord in highlighting scrum-half Baptiste Couilloud. It has been mentioned that the 23-year-old might be one of the better scrum halves to barely get a taste of at test level.

Watching him carve cherry and whites on Sunday afternoon, this statement on face value seemed absurd. However, when you dig a little deeper, you suddenly realize how precise the commentary is.

True to Couilloud’s position at nine, the Lyonnais has a handful of caps to his name and started against England at Twickenham in the Fall Nations Cup in the absence of Baptiste Serin and the man. starring Antonie Dupont.

The latter is by far France’s starting scrum-half and logic would suggest that the experienced Serin could offer a more balanced option in jersey 21. That leaves Couilloud as a third option, Sébastien Bezy’s recent performances in Clermont on placing in fourth place for a starting position.

Switch to shirt 10 and the plot thickens even more. Romain Ntamack, 21, has been the outgoing half-opener for 18 months now, but his injury in the fall has allowed Galthié to put 22-year-old Matthieu Jalibert back into the starting lineup for the national team.

Having taken his first steps in France at the age of 19 in 2018, he has matured enormously and seemed extremely fit to operate at the highest level. So even more headaches.

This headache intensifies with the recent debut of Louis Carbonel from Toulon. The 21-year-old half-back has already amassed more than 50 appearances for his team and his raw talent was enough to move Ntamack to the France U20 squad which won the U20 Rugby World Championship at home in 2018.

Add to Anthony Belleau of Toulon, who has over 10 caps at the age of 24, you have instant competition for the French playmaker position. The only criticism of this situation is that, unlike the new jersey, there is no player with real experience to get Galthié and his coaches out of trouble if the worst comes to the worst.

When we look at the crosses, we have the impression that Gael Fickou and Virimi Vakatawa are quite nailed on the decisions, none of the substitutes for France having had a significant impact on the debates, even if Pierre-Louis Barassi has particularly well played for Lyon last weekend and showed his qualities for France when opportunities are limited.

On the wing, Gabin Villière of Toulon certainly made a name for himself with some flashy performances against Italy and England, before supporting these efforts with a try against Sale Sharks last weekend.

Then you see Alivereti Raka and Damian Penaud being really dominant for Clermont against Bristol on Saturday midday and that depth becomes more and more clear. It’s scary, especially when you consider that Teddy Thomas has the hand for the selection, with Vincent Rattez from Montpellier.

At the back, the plot thickens further. Anthony Bouthier played so well at the Six Nations at the start of 2020 but then again Toulouse’s Thomas Ramos is still solid whenever he gets the chance. Throw Brice Dulin’s readmission to the national team into the mix and this will perhaps make the 15 jersey the most up-and-coming position in the France team.

Of course, this is not just a confined problem to the back. In the first row, Cyril Baille, Jean-Baptiste Gros and Jefferson Poirot each had a chance to lose the lead. Camille Chat, Julien Marchand and Pierre Bourgarit have all been infallible at hooker, while Demba Bamba, Mohamed Haouas and Uini Antonio are clearly in favor of the moment and offer a lot in the lead.

At the lock, Paul Willemse and Bernard Le Roux were the outgoing partnership at the start of the calendar year and the duo even ended the Six Nations campaign together before Killian Geraci and Baptiste Pesenti concluded the year in the hall. machines.

Gabin Villière recently pleaded for more selections

© EPCR / Inpho

Finally comes the back row. Of course, the France captain is Charles Ollivon and the open flank is probably one of the first names on the squad roster. Number eight Grégory Alldritt may be second or third and his performances in the Six Nations earned the La Rochelle man a nomination for the player of the tournament.

Where there may be a little competition is on the blind side. Francois Cros of Toulouse was the man who received jersey six for the Six Nations overall, but at the end of the Fall Nations Cup and the Champions Cup first round we saw Cameron Woki start to come of age. He faced England very well at Twickenham, then five days later he gathered a Player of the Match against Northampton Saints for the Bordeaux club.

You then put in the obvious talents of Selevasio Tolofua and Sekou Macalou and France have several options to choose from to nullify their opponents.

The reality of the international squad is that with only 23 people involved in a match day squad, whenever a player capable of playing on the world stage is sent back to his club, his thirst for a blue jersey will drive him. to get better and better.

Even the recent selection policy of three games before being sent back to their clubs has caused problems. Switching to a less experienced team should have seen the side falter, but in reality it was anything but. Playing against varied competitions in the Champions Cup is a great look at how players can adapt to different styles of play and it is likely that we will see even more players making their way into the competition.

Unfortunately this weekend we will not have the opportunity to see Toulouse and Lyon in action due to positive Covid-19 tests at the Exeter Chiefs camp, but the disruption may offer players representing Montpellier , Toulon, La Rochelle, Clermont, Bordeaux and Racing 92 to once again show their immense qualities.


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