Enjoy ze ride!
Six NATIONS 2018 will start today…Time flies. I remember watching briefly as a kid, when it was still called “5 Nations” on a grainy, black and white TV on a Saturday in February in France. I cannot recall the names of the players as it was about 30 years ago, but I remember vividly as if it was yesterday, when a rooster was released on the pitch of Parc des Princes by a supporter. Ah, ces Français alors….
Forward 35 years later, and now I am living on the other side of the channel: England, the nation that gave birth to rugby. It’s complicated for me as I support France and England (my beloved and adopted country). When I met the England captain, Dylan Hartley, last week, he was rather perplexed when I mentioned this “So, you are French, you live in England and you support both teams?”. Yes, except, when France plays against England, I have to support Les Bleus, bien sûr.
Last week, at the 6 Nations official launch, I also met Jacques Brunel and found him affable, humble and ready to face the challenging task of taking over les Bleus, from his predecessor. The French squad has known 7 consecutive defeats and only drew when they played against Japan, under Noves, which was the last draw for Laporte. This led to the sacking of Guy Noves and Jacques Brunel was appointed on 27th December as changes needed to happen immediately “chez les Bleus”.
Brunel made changes to his staff straight away, by appointing new coaches but kept Guilhem Guirado, the French captain. They know each other well, as Jacques used to be his coach when Guirado was playing for Perpignan.
Brunel has only been in charge of the French squad for 6 weeks, but already there’s been a wind of change. The French squad is slowly opening up to the media as under Noves’ watch, he despised media intrusion. Their last training session at Marcoussis was opened up to the public. Brunel treats his squad like men and not children too (under Noves’s regime, players had to ask permission to buy a tube of toothpaste, if they had to leave their training camp, for example).
Today will not be an easy feat for the French squad as the original team has been decimated by a plethora of injuries and players are quite young (which can be a benefit and a drawback at the same time). In the team, Guirado’s nickname is “Pappy” which translates for Grandad as he’s very “ancient” because he’s 31 years old 😉, but has been playing for les Bleus since 2008.
Today, there will be some new and relatively unknown players starting, such as Matthieu Jalibert who is only 19 years old, fly- half but who has shown great potential (he’s likely to be targeted by the men in Green), but also other players such as Priso, Pellisie, Gomes Sa and Taulieigne etc….). Young squad and full of energy, joy and passion.
So, a victory today would go a long way. If not, I am very positive about the future of Les Bleus! Les Bleuets “French U20s” won their first game yesterday evening against the Irish team. A good omen, I hope.
Allez Les Bleus, all the way from L’Angleterre!
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