The way to the Stade de France passes through the outskirts of Edinburgh, and several players hope to win a place on the bus there. One month before the start of “his” World Cup, at home, the XV of France of Fabien Galthié finds, Saturday August 5, in the Scottish capital, the road of the stadiums. After nearly a month of intense preparation – notably physical, driven by performance director Thibault Giroud – the Blues face Scotland at Murrayfield (4:15 p.m. Paris time). This will be the first of four preparation matches for the Habs before the World Cup (September 8-October 28).
“This match will allow us to validate our weeks of preparation, and will also launch this World Cup”, summarized winger Gabin Villière this week at a press conference. After sweating during a first training camp in Monaco, captain Antoine Dupont’s teammates have returned to the Marcoussis National Rugby Center (Essonne) and will complete their preparation on the Landes coast, in Capbreton.
At the end of Saturday’s match at Murrayfield, the Blues will continue their studious month of August with a revenge against Scotland, Saturday August 12 in Saint-Etienne, then with two matches against Fiji (August 19 in Nantes) and Australia (August 27 at the Stade de France). Enough to refine the automation before the start of the World Cup and, above all, to make room for many players, before the announcement of the list of 33 participants in the competition (August 21).
“Get the jersey”
For this first opposition, the XV du Chardon chose to align all its quills, from the back Finn Russell to the winger Duhan van der Merwe. After having largely rotated his group for his back-to-school match on July 29 against Italy (25-13), Scottish coach Gregor Townsend announced that he wanted “Field the best team possible for the next two weeks”because, he says, “there is no bigger challenge, at the moment, than playing against France”. On the other hand, spectators at the Murrayfield stadium may have difficulty recognizing the three-color formation aligned from the outset on Saturday. Fabien Galthié has indeed unveiled a largely renewed team.
After a grueling season – and few vacations – the Blues staff chose to let their executives (and usual starters) breathe for this first outing. Of the twenty so-called “premium” players guaranteed to play in the World Cup, barring injury, only the opening half Matthieu Jalibert and the second row Cameron Woki will be on the pitch at kick-off (the hooker Peato Mauvaka and the second line Paul Willemse being on the bench).
As for Antoine Dupont, Romain Ntamack, Gaël Fickou and the others, they remained in Marcoussis, where they “will work on the strategy and [étudier les caractéristiques des] opponents that we will meet during the World Cup”, explained this week Karim Ghezal, the coach in charge of conquest and specific tasks.
While the finest blades of the XV of France are resting, the twenty remaining aspirants – the Blues are preparing for 42 since the start of Galthié’s mandate – will fight in Scotland. Objective: win a place in the 33 ultimately selected for the big meeting in September-October. The tricolor coach denies it, but he will carefully scrutinize the performance of each of the players lined up. Because even if, on Thursday, he still challenged the term “folding seat” and insisted on the fact that “the list of 33 is not an end in itself” (injured players can be replaced during the competition), Galthié also repeats, at will, that the players must “go get the jersey”.
Brice Dulin named captain
On the XV side of France this Saturday, there will be three “neophytes”, who will sign their first cape against Scotland: Bordeaux winger Louis Bielle-Biarrey, Pau center Emilien Gailleton – both 20 years old – and the third ligne Pierre Boudehent, 25 years old and already a starter with the European champions in La Rochelle. Familiars of the Blues for a year, and regularly in the preparation group for the Six Nations Tournament, the three players have been praised by the staff since the start of the preparation. “A player with zero caps can be better than one with 50 caps. So you have to live in the moment.”, insisted Fabien Galthié Thursday. “We have everything to prove, [tout] to gain, nothing to loseobserved the third line Paul Boudehent, in the heart of July.
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Others have more pressure. Starting with Brice Dulin, appointed captain for the occasion. Back with the Blues after two years of absence, the La Rochelle back faces tough competition in his position. Like him, the ghosts Demba Bamba (pillar) or Arthur Vincent (center) and Jean-Baptiste Gros (pillar), operational again after serious injuries, will have to prove that they can become “premium” players of the Blues again.
During the match, everyone will be keen to force their way into the coach’s list. And that goes through a good result on Scottish soil, where Fabien Galthié “prepare for difficulty and chaos”. “For four years, whatever our team competition, we have “matched” [face à l’Ecosse] », warned the Lot coach. Hybrid team or not, the XV of France begins the last straight line before the World Cup. And if the result does not matter, it is not the same in the way.
Rugby: the schedule of international matches for the month of August
Find the complete program of the preparatory matches of the teams participating in the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France, from September 8 to October 28.
Saturday August 5
- Samoa-Tonga, at Apia Park, Apia (4 hours Paris time)
- New Zealand-Australia, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin, New Zealand (4:35 a.m.)
- Japan-Fiji, Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium, Tokyo (12:15 p.m.)
- Scotland–France, at the Murrayfield stadium, in Edinburgh (on TF1, at 4:15 p.m.)
- Wales – England, Principality Stadium, Cardiff (6:30 p.m.)
- Romania – United States, at the Stadionul Arcul de Triumf, in Bucharest (7 p.m.)
- Uruguay-Namibia, at the Estadio Charrua, in Montevideo (20 hours)
- Ireland-Italy, at the Aviva Stadium, in Dublin (9 p.m.)
- Argentina-South Africa, at the José-Amalfitani Stadium, in Buenos Aires (9:10 p.m.)
Thursday August 10
- Tonga-Canada, at Teufaiva Sport Stadium, Nuku’alofa (2 hours)
Saturday August 12
- Portugal – United States, at the Do Algar stadium, in Almancil, Portugal (2 hours)
- Georgia-Romania, at the Mikheil-Meskhi stadium, in Tbilisi (4 p.m.)
- Chile-Namibia, at the German Becker stadium, in Temuco, Chile (23 hours)
- England-Wales, at Twickenham, in London (6:30 p.m.)
- France–Scotland, at the Geoffroy-Guichard stadium, in Saint-Etienne (on TF1, at 9:05 p.m.)
Tuesday August 15
- Tonga-Canada, at Teufaiva Stadium, Nuku’alofa (2 hours)
Saturday August 19
- Georgia – United States, at the Mikheil-Meskhi stadium, in Tbilisi (4 p.m.)
- Wales-South Africa, Principality Stadium, Cardiff (4:15 p.m.)
- Ireland-England, at Aviva Stadium, Dublin (6:30 p.m.)
- Italy-Romania, at the Riviera delle Palme stadium, in San Benedetto del Tronto in Italy (6:30 p.m.)
- France–Fiji, at the Beaujoire stadium, in Nantes (on TF1, at 9:05 p.m.)
Friday August 25
- New Zealand – South Africa, at Twickenham, in London (8:30 p.m.)
Saturday August 26
- Spain-Argentina, at Civitas Metropolitano, in Madrid (2 hours)
- England-Fiji, at Twickenham, in London (4:15 p.m.)
- Scotland-Georgia, at Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh (6:30 p.m.)
- Italy-Japan, at the Stadio Comunale di Monigo, in Treviso, Italy (6:30 p.m.)
- Ireland-Samoa, at the Jean-Dauger stadium, in Bayonne (8:45 p.m.)
Sunday August 27
- France–Australia, at the Stade de France, in Saint-Denis (on TF1, at 5.45 p.m.)