Rugby, two “kids” on their way to Ireland

Let’s give back to Jacques Brunel, the previous coach, what belongs to him. The first Antoine Dupont-Romain Ntamack association at the hinge of the XV of France, it is him. In February 2019 during a France-Scotland, the two boys had negotiated the thing very well. Without taking away its merit from the previous boss of the Blues, it should be noted that this marriage followed six unsuccessful 9-10 unions in previous matches. A dozen players had been chosen and associated with the offensive animation of the French team, and the two kids, Antoine Dupont (22 years old, at the time) and Romain Ntamack (19) were only a formula Furthermore. Which turned out to be magical.

No more hesitation for the duo Fabien Galthié (coach) -Raphaël Ibanez (manager) at the helm of the XV of France since the 2019 World Cup: Antoine Dupont in the scrum for the first pass and Romain Ntamack at the opening for the first kick launch. The two players have brought back a smile to their Toulouse club since they evolve in this configuration in red and black. And now they are imposed more and more in blue, as the hinge of the present and the future.

Perfect copy against Wales

They showed it again on Saturday 24 against Wales (38-21), making a perfect copy for the scrum-half author of two tries. And more than honorable for the second with a faultless, thirteen points scored out of thirteen possible at the foot for the second. At the end of the match, the coach was full of praise for his kids, especially his number 9: “He lived up to the team. He was able to exploit our highlights. He was able to be very good in a context different from the Top 14. He was able to adapt quickly enough to both offensive and defensive activity of the Welsh. “

“But I want to emphasize that the hinge was good overall, it carries the team”, continued Fabien Galthié who already dates for October 31 and the decisive match against Ireland, which will likely emerge the winner of the Tournament 2020. “I also want to point out the excellent entry from Baptiste Serin (Editor’s note: replacing Antoine Dupont at the 70e minute), specifies the coach. How to observe that any apparently indisputable choice can always be discussed.

Thrown very young in the big international bath

The fact remains that the two very young players are gifted rugby, thrown very early in the deep end of international rugby. Antoine Dupont, who started professionally in Castres before joining Stade Toulouse, played his first European Cup match in 2015 at the age of 17. “Me, at the time I was still in college”, Amused Romain Ntamack during a press briefing by the French team at the 2019 World Cup, where he had become the youngest player selected in blue in history.

Son of Émile Ntamack, famous international full-back, Romain Ntamack was fed on milk from Stade Toulousain, his father’s club since childhood. First employed as a center three-quarter, he is increasingly establishing himself as the great opening half awaited for ages by French rugby. And it does not seem close to being won by the pressure, an evil that paralyzed Dan Biggar, his glorious Welsh opponent on Saturday 24, whose match was missed. Nor by the big head syndrome sometimes watching these kids pushed very quickly.

It’s hard not to think you’re someone else when you’re so young. But if you are well surrounded, your family will help you channel ”, underlined Saturday 24 Romain Ntamack in a joint interview with his teammate Dupont broadcast on RMC Sport on the eve of France-Wales. The ambition is a little different for Antoine Dupont. For the latter, the important thing is now to last in order to arrive with experience, “At least 50 or 60 selections during the 2023 World Cup”. This World Cup organized in France is the main objective of the young generation. After Saturday’s game against Ireland, Saturday 31 at 9 p.m.



The bosses of the XV of France snub the Covid

An epidemic… what epidemic? The choice of fifteen players and their eight substitutes (see list below) for the France-Wales match marks the return of rugby to international life after a seven-month hiatus. And denotes a good dose of perseverance on the part of the two strong men of the XV of France, Fabien Galthié (coach) and Raphaël Ibanez (general manager).

Ignoring the interruption of the 2020 Tournament, the cancellation of various international tours and the showdown with the presidents of the Top 14 clubs refusing to entrust their players with them for as long as planned, they intend to maintain their roadmap. Like nothing ever happened.

“Children against men”

The proof, the starting XV against Wales will be exactly the same as during the France-England of February 2, 2020, the first big meeting under the patronage of the duo Galthié-Ibanez. Bravely playing the card of daring, the new bosses stay the course of a young team (25 years old on average) and not exceeding the sixteen selections on average. “During the last Wales-France, the great Cardiff daily had headlined children against men”, smiles Fabien Galthié, all the more willingly since his little Blues had beaten the old reds.

The discourse of the Galthié-Ibañez method

Remaining on three successes in a row against England, Italy and Wales and a disappointment in Scotland, the Blues have another appointment with the Welsh in a friendly match on Saturday 24 October. Before playing, on the 31st, the last match of the Tournament interrupted in March, against Ireland at the Stade de France. A meeting at the top, which should deliver the name of the winner of a 2020 Tournament sliced ​​by the Covid.

“A real collective test”

Update by Raphaël Ibanez: “This match against the Welsh is far from being a friendly meeting, that word does not exist in our sport, it will be a real collective test, with the challenge of playing without our audience”. Confronted for the first time with the empty stands of the Stade de France, since all the meetings of the fall will take place behind closed doors, the Blues have also started this international phase with only one training on the clock, which has never happened in the history of the XV of France. An additional difficulty that Fabien Galthié sweeps away. “We had our players for seven weeks at the start of the year, this week is the eighth and we made them feel a form of continuity, without which no performance is possible at the top level.”

Hence the unchanged composition, which should also be largely renewed for Ireland, except disaster on Saturday 24. “We have 23 players that we have chosen from a list of 90 studied for weeks, it is these guys that we must support and harden for the long term”. Which is measured in cycles of four years in rugby, the interval between two World Cups. The next one taking place in France in 2023.

Second chance for Mohamed Haouas and Teddy Thomas

A concern for stability that does not prohibit betting on certain players such as the pillar Mohamed Haouas, expelled after a bad gesture against Scotland. Or Teddy Thomas, released during the game against the Welsh, after being non-existent in the crucial area for a defense winger. “In different genres, these are players who have weaknesses, like all of us, but the training and the performances of the week make us confident, we choose a player for his strengths and theirs are indisputable”, continues Fabien Galthié confident in his group despite his reduced squad for these two crucial matches.

For the matches that await the Blues after Wales and Ireland during the Autumn Cup (competition imagined by the International Federation to bring money into the coffers thanks to broadcasting rights), the two bosses will have to rotate the workforce. And therefore retain players less indisputable in their eyes. Following tough negotiations between the Federation and the League of Professional Clubs, the internationals can only be called up three times in all for the six matches on the calendar by mid-December. Not enough to panic the duettists. “Now that we know the rules, we manage”, concludes Fabien Galthié.


The 23 selected against Wales

Holders: Anthony Bouthier – Teddy Thomas, Gaël Fickou, Virimi Vakatawa, Vincent Rattez – Romain Ntamack (o), Antoine Dupont (m) – Charles Ollivon (cap.), Grégory Alldritt, François Cros – Paul Willemse, Bernard Le Roux – Mohamed Haouas, Julien Marchand, Cyril Baille.

Substitutes : Jean-Baptiste Gros, Camille Chat, Demba Bamba, Romain Taofifenua, Dylan Cretin, Baptiste Serin, Thomas Ramos, Arthur Vincent.



Rugby: Bernard Laporte placed in custody in the Altrad case

Ten days away from running for the head of the French rugby federation (FFR) Bernard Laporte was taken into custody Tuesday, September 22 in Paris, in the investigation into his links with the president of the Montpellier club, Mohed Altrad. His lawyer denounces a “Interference” in the campaign for the presidency of the FFR while Bernard Laporte castigates a “Destabilization” and one “Calendar unworthy of a democracy” in a letter to French clubs, distributed during his custody.

Preliminary investigation opened in 2017

Heard by the Economic Crime Repression Brigade (BRDE), Bernard Laporte is the subject of a preliminary investigation opened in 2017 by the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office, then recipient of a report from the inspectors general of the sports ministry. He would have exerted pressure on the federation’s appeal committee to reduce in June 2017 the sanctions pronounced against Montpellier Hérault Rugby (MHR), the club owned by the Altrad group, also sponsor of the France team.

August 13, 2017 Sunday Newspaper had also revealed the existence of a contract for 150,000 € of image services between BL Communication, a company managed by Laporte, and Altrad Investment Authority, a contract which the boss of French rugby had finally given up.

→ TO RE (READ). Rugby, what do we blame Bernard Laporte for?

“Interference with the judicial process”

Lawyer for Bernard Laporte, Me Jean-Pierre Versini-Campinchi deplored that the hearing takes place ten days before the elections for the presidency of the rugby federation, where the former Secretary of State for Sports (2007-2009) is seeking a second term, facing its main opponent Florian Grill.

“Searches were carried out (at the headquarters of the FFR) in February 2018, one could imagine that he would be heard in September 2018, this would have left investigators seven months to analyze the documents. However, he was summoned two years later, in the middle of the campaign, while the prosecutor knew the electoral calendar of the federation since August 2019 ”, said the advice of Bernard Laporte.

“It is the blatant interference of a judicial process in an electoral process”, he added, claiming that “The prosecutor refused, without reason, to change the date”. A previous hearing, set earlier in the year, had been postponed “Because of the health restrictions of the Covid-19, otherwise he would have gone there”, added Me Versini-Campinchi. As part of the investigation, the three members of the federal appeal commission have already been heard in 2019.

The boss of the group, Mohed Altrad, owner of the Montpellier club and sponsor of the Blues, was also taken into custody by the financial police, just like the boss of the 2023 World Cup Claude Atcher, and two senior officials of the Federation, Serge Simon and Nicolas Hourquet.



Rugby: end of the campaign under very high tension at the French Federation

Their custody ended Wednesday, September 23, in the early evening, after a good thirty hours of hearing. All the protagonists of the episode left free, without any indictment, without opening judicial information. For the moment.

→ READ. Rugby: Bernard Laporte placed in custody in the Altrad case

But the management team of the French Rugby Federation can look gray: for its president Bernard Laporte, its vice-president Serge Simon, its international relations manager Nicolas Hourquet, its director of the organizing committee for the 2023 World Cup Claude Atcher, and his great financier, the billionaire Mohed Altrad, owner of the Montpellier club, this long stay in the Parisian premises of the Economic Crime Repression Brigade (BRDE) is obviously very bad publicity.

Basically, there is a case of favoritism opened by the national financial prosecutor’s office since 2017 concerning, above all, Bernard Laporte and Mohed Altrad, and, more generally, a case with drawers concerning the conditions of attribution of the World 2023. But there is above all a question of “timing”, this custody falling barely ten days before the election to the presidency of the French Rugby Federation, on October 3.

“A putsch”, for Bernard Laporte

For Bernard Laporte, who is seeking a second term, it is understood: it is about“A real coup attempt, the motivation of the authors of which is beyond doubt, he gets angry in a letter to the clubs written before his custody but sent during. All this is part of a real nauseating electoral strategy ”.

→ TO (RE) READ. Rugby, what do we blame Bernard Laporte for?

Without naming him, the president of the FFR is targeting his opponent, Florian Grill, business manager and president of the Île-de-France regional league. “You will notice that in more than a year that I have campaigned, I have never spoken about this affair, assures Florian Grill, and I’m not going to start now. Let her take her course. I remain focused on club life, my main concern. “

There are now a few days of campaign to the two candidates to go fishing in extremis the last votes. Bernard Laporte is expected this Thursday, September 24 in Montpellier, where the France 2023 train which boasts the upcoming World Cup stops by visiting 24 cities until October 12. The opponents of the outgoing president do not fail to rant against this promotional operation which conveniently allows Bernard Laporte to highlight one of the strong points of his mandate, the achievement of global competition. Florian Grill, for its part, continues its grid of the ground, with its “230 interactive meetings which resulted in a co-constructed program”, indicates the candidate.

A vote “for or against Bernard Laporte”

At the end of 2016, the challenger Laporte had plowed the ground against the installed team of Pierre Camou. Some were suddenly moved by the means spent by the hot candidate, between 110,000 and 150,000 € depending on the sources, but without real certainty on the subject. Florian Grill claims to finance his campaign this year with donations limited to € 10,000 per donor, which would have enabled him to raise for the moment “A little over 100,000 €”.

Lots of energy and resources for a campaign now shaken up by the judicial calendar? This is what this leader in Occitania fears, who prefers to remain anonymous: “Everything will come down to a for or against Bernard Laporte. His detractors will be confirmed in their idea of ​​clan management of the FFR, and his supporters will be even more certain that his personality disturbs some interests. And as always, the programs go by the wayside. “

Two different visions

But do they have a really different vision of the rugby of tomorrow, these programs? Bernard Laporte always insists on two priorities: the clubs and the French teams. To the former, he promises a lot, in particular the 80 or 100 million euros in economic benefits expected from the 2023 World Cup. For the latter, he sees big: the world title for women in 2021, for men in 2023 obviously , and Olympic gold for rugby 7s in 2024. Priority therefore to the Blues. Even if it means sometimes twisting the arm of professional clubs. The current conflict between the FFR and the National Rugby League (LNR) over the provision of internationals for the next matches of the Blues (the FFR wants to program six, the LNR only wanted five, Editor’s note) testifies to this.

→ TO (RE) READ. Rugby: defeated, the XV of France is now heading for “his” World Cup

This is undoubtedly the main divide between the two candidates. “This brutal management creates phenomenal and deadly tensions, judge Florian Grill. Relations between FFR and LNR must be pacified. In the same way, we must give meaning to what we do, an educational and societal meaning to this rugby which structures many villages. Which is not at odds with performance. “

For the rest – the effort to be made for volunteers, the need to reinvest in school sport, the obligation to reverse the curve of licensees – the two candidates share the objectives if not the way to achieve it . But these points of convergence are well and truly lost in the hubbub of an exacerbated end of the campaign. The last hours will be at la castagne. For a result without doubt very tight. For the winner, treating wounds will not be easy.