Rugby: for Fabien Galthié, the defeat against South Africa will remain “a scar that we will have for life”

His intervention was expected

Rugby: for Fabien Galthié, the defeat against South Africa will remain “a scar that we will have for life”

His intervention was expected. Fabien Galthié had not spoken since his press conference, several dozen minutes after the end of the World Cup quarter-final narrowly lost to South Africa (28-29), on October 15. Dejected, like all the players and staff of the French XV, for whom the defeat sounded the death knell for the ambitions of winning a home title, the French coach let the World Cup in France end – with the Springboks being crowned –, then cut. It was necessary to respect “the time of mourning” after this elimination, declared the French technician on Wednesday November 8.

After leading a training session with young people from the Paris Université Club (PUC) – where he played more with the children than training – Fabien Galthié spoke for the first time about the “huge disappointment” caused by the release early road of his Blues in “their” World Cup. “The only goal we wanted to achieve was to be world champions. There was no other, and the disappointment would have been the same if we had lost in the semi-final or in the final by one point,” insisted the coach, recognizing that “this injury will form a scar that the 'we'll have it for life'.

If he explained that he presented to his troops, in the week preceding the quarter-final, the two possible scenarios, that of “the dislocation” after four months spent together – where the French were forced to evacuate their hotel before noon the day after their defeat, and to leave each other abruptly – left its mark. And Fabien Galthié waited five days before being able to see the meeting so narrowly lost again: “We die at one point! » On the train taking him back to his region of Lot, the technician plunged back into the France-South Africa having showered a nation.

No questioning of strategies

“On a tactical level, I would do the same thing if I had to do it again,” assured the coach, rejecting any error. If he recognizes that he will not be able to avoid questioning, the former coach of Stade Français has found in the “data”, the data with which he irrigates his management, numerous reasons not to “question everything” after this one point defeat. Important to rugby is the notion of expected goals, already well known in football (the probability of seeing a shot converted into a goal), the French technician noted that his men, who entered the South African scoring zone eleven times, created many more chances than their opponents, whom he praised for their “hyperrealism”. The fact remains that “on the last gesture, on the facts of the game… it was not enough”, he admitted. And it was the Springboks who continued their path to the world title: “A point is nothing, but a point is everything,” breathed Fabien Galthié.

If the arbitration of New Zealander Ben O'Keeffe has more than fueled the headlines for almost a month, the French coach has been careful not to restart the machine. “We must accept defeat,” repeated Fabien Galthié, closing the page of the World Cup in France. Now it's time for a new four-year term, with the 2027 World Cup in Australia in focus. Reinforced in his functions by the president of the French Rugby Federation (FFR), Florian Grill, the day after the defeat, the French coach, who restored a French XV undermined by years of misery, called for maintaining the spirit of unity that governed his first four years at the head of the Blues. Particularly between the National Rugby League (LNR), an emanation of the clubs, and the Federation: “We walk together. I want to believe that we will continue to walk together, that’s called solidarity,” insisted Fabien Galthié, emphasizing that the success of the Blues permeates French rugby as a whole.

While the Top 14 resumed its rights the day after the final, and the majority of French internationals returned to their clubs – and, for some, like Toulouse hooker Peato Mauvaka, to the pitches – the French coach has a little more than two months ahead of him to restart the machine, with a renewed staff: at the beginning of February, his French XV will host Ireland – another big groggy of the French World Cup – in Marseille, for the opening of the Six Nations Tournament.

“The lesson to learn from this experience is that there is no limit to the demands,” concluded Fabien Galthié. Let's be demanding collectively, let's be demanding individually, let's all try to raise our level another notch. It is at this price that we will be efficient. » If the “scar” of defeat will remain inscribed in the soul of the French players and management – ​​as well as their supporters – for life, Fabien Galthié experienced enough disillusionment when he was a player to know that these failures “never constitute a handicap”. And twenty-four days after failing to score a point for the Springboks, the Lot technician aspires to get back to work.