Galthie: 6N champ France ‘not finished’ with wins and titles
French rugby is tidying up its house.
A new interim president of the federation was chosen on Friday and Alexandre Martinez, the former treasurer, said he wanted to reduce the infighting in the administration.
“It’s time to come together, to unite and support our France XV with pride,” Martinez said.
Former president Bernard Laporte’s denials and designs to cling to power dragged French rugby through the mud for the past five years, even after he was convicted in court of corruption charges in mid-December.
He self-suspended as World Rugby vice-chairman but refused to give up the FFR presidency for six more days. Only then he suspended himself. When the clubs rejected his plan to place a surrogate in the presidency, Laporte finally resigned last week.
But old allegiances die hard.
The disgraced Laporte accepted an invite to France’s training camp at Marcoussis on Thursday, five years after it was raided by police who were investigating him. France coach Fabien Galthie and manager Raphael Ibanez played under Laporte, who coached France to four Six Nations titles in the noughties.
“Our mission is a purely sporting one. We invited Bernard because France is organizing the World Cup thanks to him,” Ibanez said.
For all the turmoil Laporte’s law-breaking had on the FFR’s business, it hasn’t rippled on the field. The Top 14 has produced the last two European club champions and France launches on Sunday its bid to win successive Six Nations for the first time since 2007, Laporte’s last year as the national coach.
After its Grand Slam, France’s mindset sharpened as it transformed from hunter to hunted last year. The Tricolors won five more tests — including narrow home wins over South Africa and Australia — to go through a calendar year with a first perfect record.
Also, they extended their winning streak to a national-record 13 tests. After a decade of mediocrity, they are keen to put down more markers en route to their target of a first World Cup triumph.
“Our journey has not finished,” Galthie stressed. “We are going to get better because our team has not yet reached the age of maturity.”
The Tricolors have an ideal tournament opener against Italy in Rome, where they haven’t lost in 10 years.
And injuries to key players have been redressed.
Lock Cameron Woki, out with a broken wrist, was replaced by Paul Willemse. Center Jonathan Danty, sidelined by a knee injury, was covered by Yoram Moefana. Gabin Villiere, who scored a hat trick of tries against Italy a year ago, did his ankle in training and his wing was filled by uncapped Ethan Dumortier, the Top 14′s leading try-scorer from Lyon who has earned enthusiastic reviews.
Thomas Ramos keeping out Melvyn Jaminet at fullback suggested France — already disciplined and well-drilled — wants more attacking options. Galthie said they are prepared for chaos at Stadio Olimpico.
But Italy’s encouraging signs of a developing identity, coach Kieran Crowley said, don’t include chaos.
Star flyhalf Paolo Garbisi was still recovering from a knee ligament injury so Tommaso Allan and Stephen Varney were the halves for a third straight test. Seven of the pack play for Benetton, which has more wins than losses in the top half of the United Rugby Championship.
Their backstop is Ange Capuozzo, the breakout player of 2022. Capuozzo was born in Grenoble and plays at Toulouse. He takes weekly Italian language lessons but finds more fluency in camp. He faces his country of birth for the first time.
“It’s an important moment for me, not only as a player but also as a person,” he said. “My whole story is in this match.”
Crowley just hopes they’re competitive with France.
“Let’s face it, these are the favorites to win the Rugby World Cup,” Crowley said. “Compete with them, stay in the game, play the rugby we want . . . if it’s enough to win the game, great. If it won’t be but we have respected our objectives, we will be satisfied, because we are still a growing team and they are among the best in the world.”
Italy: Ange Capuozzo, Pierre Bruno, Juan Ignacio Brex, Luca Morisi, Tommaso Menoncello, Tommaso Allan, Stephen Varney; Lorenzo Cannone, Michele Lamaro (captain), Sebastian Negri, Federico Ruzza, Niccolo Cannone, Simone Ferrari, Giacomo Nicotera, Danilo Fischetti. Reserves: Luca Bigi, Federico Zani, Pietro Ceccarelli, Edoardo Iachizzi, Giovanni Pettinelli, Manuel Zuliani, Alessandro Fusco, Edoardo Padovani.
France: Thomas Ramos, Damian Penaud, Gaël Fickou, Yoram Moefana, Ethan Dumortier, Romain Ntamack, Antoine Dupont (captain); Grégory Alldritt, Charles Ollivon, Anthony Jelonch, Paul Willemse, Thibaud Flament, Uini Atonio, Julien Marchand, Cyril Baille. Reserves: Gaëtan Barlot, Réda Wardi, Sipili Falatea, Romain Taofifenua, Thomas Lavault, Sekou Macalou, Nolann Le Garrec, Matthieu Jalibert.
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