Rugby World Cup 2023: returnees, survivors and “finishers” of the French XV called up against Uruguay

The Rugby World Cup is a long journey

Rugby World Cup 2023: returnees, survivors and “finishers” of the French XV called up against Uruguay

The Rugby World Cup is a long journey. Started on September 8, with the victory of the French XV against the All Blacks (27-13), the competition will end almost two months later, Saturday October 28. More than a sprint, the World Cup is a long-distance race, and Fabien Galthié undoubtedly noted in one of his notebooks the adage “he who wants to travel far takes care of his horse”. To face Uruguay, the Blues' second meeting in this World Cup, Thursday September 14 (9 p.m., TF1), in Villeneuve-d'Ascq (North), the French coach therefore chose to draw on the depth of his squad to constitute his team.

“In a competition like the World Cup, certain players accustomed to being “finishers” will have to start the matches, warned the assistant coach of the Blues in charge of the conquest, Karim Ghezal, before the opening match. Because, depending on the players at the stop, we will need everyone. » The public at the Pierre-Mauroy stadium in the Lille metropolis will have difficulty recognizing the team facing Los Teros, and not only because this time, the French will play in blue (they were in white against the All Blacks). Indeed, a broad review of the French workforce is on the program.

“We have to digest the match of a few days ago, which had been flashing for three years,” insisted the French coach. Exit, therefore, the executives like the usual captain Antoine Dupont and all his vice-captains: Grégory Alldritt, Charles Ollivon or Gaël Fickou, who will not even be on the bench on Thursday. Make way for a team “which brought freshness, which had preparation and which went through different paths”, summarizes Fabien Galthié. Who assures – as he had already done during the previous match – that he sees “the best team in France at the moment”.

With a schedule relieved of the inaugural clash, and which leaves time for the Blues before the next "big" match, against Italy, on October 6 - they will face, in the meantime, the not very perilous Namibia, on September 21 -, the he idea of ​​putting to rest the backbone of the XV of France seems logical. “It is not necessarily a desire to rest the executives, it is simply the desire to build a team, so that it is the most competitive in the matches to come”, nuanced the co-coach of the conquest, William Servat , emphasizing “the desire to include all players”.

“An extraordinary recovery capacity”

In the northern lands, several former “broken faces” of the XV of France will be there. Like center Arthur Vincent, who twice ruptured the cruciate ligaments in his left knee and endured two years of hardship; winger Gabin Villière, undermined by repeated injuries this season; the pillar Jean-Baptiste Gros or the powerful second row Romain Taofifenua, on the sidelines for part of the preparation. If he insisted that the pre-match press conference did not turn into “a field hospital”, Fabien Galthié recognized on Tuesday that “the health record of each [of his players] is well filled” . Deprived, in particular, of his playing master, Romain Ntamack, injured at the end of preparation, the coach recalled that “the injury is part of the game”.

The captain chosen to lead this vengeful squad knows this well. If Anthony Jelonch had already been captain of the blue ship during a summer tour in Australia (in 2021), seeing the Toulouse third row compete in the World Cup is almost a miracle. Because his rupture of the cruciate ligaments in his left knee, at the end of February during a match against Scotland, seemed to have doomed his World Cup dreams. But the player “worked hard to give [himself] the chance to come back,” he explained on Tuesday, and saw his efforts rewarded. “He is one of those exceptional players who has an extraordinary recovery capacity. The surgeon doesn’t understand what’s going on with Anthony Jelonch,” Fabien Galthié marveled in May.

The French technician chose to select for the World Cup the one who is part of the locker room executives, despite uncertainty over his physical condition. And left the choice to his player on his return to school match: “I responded as quickly as possible,” said the Gersois, smiling, whose recovery was validated by the medical staff. “We have been building this journey with him for months and today, all the lights are green,” assures the health manager of the French XV, Bruno Boussagol.

Between the returnees, the “finishers” who don a starting costume and the three survivors of the opening match – second row Cameron Woki, center Yoram Moefana and Gabin Villière – who can see this sequence as a catch-up session , the XV of France will not lack motivation when it comes time to lead the charge against the modest Uruguayans (17th nation in the world). Six days after ideally launching their World Cup against the Blacks, the Blues will be keen not to bring down the bellows.