Former France captain and current team manager Raphael Ibanez admitted on Saturday that two weeks of quarantine hurt their chances ahead of the opening test against Australia, but expressed confidence in his young side.
The Blues have been in a strict bubble, but allowed to train, since arriving in Sydney and will only taste the freedom on Tuesday, a day before the first Test in Brisbane, which will take place with fans after the lifting of a coronavirus lockdown.
They will arrive in the Queensland capital in the early evening on Tuesday, likely denying them the opportunity to train at Suncorp Stadium and familiarize themselves with their surroundings before the game.
“Australian rugby did their best to accommodate us, but on the rugby side there is no doubt that it affected our preparations,” said former hooker Ibanez, who played 98 times for France, during a video call of the 14 days of mandatory quarantine.
“Usually our training schedule is very precise and it was difficult, to be honest, in these conditions to train the way we wanted. “
The team had to set up a makeshift gym in their hotel parking lot, and the only time they can leave is for a 40-minute bus ride to a training ground.
“We just had to adapt to the situation and work closely with Rugby Australia who went to great lengths to help us,” added Ibanez.
The opening test was scheduled for Sydney, but was moved hastily last week after Australia’s largest city was stranded for two weeks following an outbreak of the highly contagious Delta variant.
Brisbane was also locked out and there were concerns that the game would have to be played behind closed doors. Government officials gave the green light on Saturday for it to be lifted and fans will now be allowed, but will have to wear masks.
France brought a young side to Australia with 21 unselected players, affected by injuries and one of their longest domestic seasons of all time, which excluded players involved in the Top 14 final.
Only Damian Penaud, Teddy Thomas and Romain Taofifenua have played more than 20 times.
“Our goal now is to turn this problem into an opportunity for our young players,” said Ibanez. “We have 21 uncapped players, which is a huge challenge for us. But we think they have enough talent to compete with the best.
“We have a very young team, but I think this tour will only be a success if we reveal our potential,” he added.
“I know Australia want to play physical, fast and aggressive rugby and we will be ready for that, we are looking forward to this challenge as a team. “
© 2021 AFP