The Japanese calendar is Monday, September 23, a holiday, because of autumn equinox. Every season in its time. A bit like Rugby World Cups. First, the current one in Japan, where the XV of France is not among the favorites, far from it. Then that of 2023, he will play at home and on which he already has high hopes.
Sometimes, present and future intermingle all the same. The current group of thirty-one Bleus has three world champions under 20, all titled with the Blueberries in June 2018: Romain Ntamack, Demba Bamba and Pierre-Louis Barassi.
Three young people to whom are added others hardly less inexperienced. Holders and substitutes included, sixteen of the twenty-three French on the score sheet just discovered the World Cup before their inaugural victory (23-21) on Argentina, Saturday, September 21, in Tokyo.
This 2019 edition in Japan? "I think it will be a bit early for us," replied Romain Ntamack cautiously, one morning in November 2018. The Toulouse included the Barbarians, then the reserve team of the XV of France. Relaxed atmosphere when we met him, on the facilities of the Rugby club Arcachon basin. The spirit "Baa-Baas", apparently it. The very one who gets a whole group to training with forty minutes behind schedule.
In Tokyo, the Blues have been exact at the rendezvous. And Romain Ntamack, already in success, at 20 years and 143 days, record of precocity for a Frenchman in World Cup. Hecked at first against Argentina, the opener quickly regained his footing. The right. Two successful transformations, although eccentric. And two penalties listed, out of three possible.
"He showed in the preparation matches that this role of scorer did not scare him, he is trusted", The coach, Jacques Brunel, was already deciding ahead of the game.
If he has an effective kick, the neo-twenty-one also likes the game of hands. This game including Stade Toulouse, champion of France in title, is a pride. Almost an ethics. "Keeping the ball to the fullest is a bit of our trademark. We've been learning since very young to make passes to move it, he explained in January before his first selection. This is the rugby that everyone loves, a rugby of movements and initiatives. "
Sometimes opener, sometimes center, the player is a child of the oval ball. Son of Emile Ntamack, who also shone in Toulouse and France team. "He tells me to let go on the ground, that's what I do since little, no reason that changes. " Even less with, for half scrum, Antoine Dupont, 22, in club as in selection.
Different course for Demba Bamba, first passed by handball and judo. The right pillar had his debut with the Blues in November 2018, while playing only in the second national division, with Brive.
" Now, when I enter the field, the opponents always try to destabilize me, he said three months later. Small spades here and there, "tu will not finish the match". It's not mean, in the end we shake hands. " The future Lyonnais also took part in the success of Saturday. First substitute, he brought to the pack the solidity of his 122 kilos in the second period.
In recent days, the Blues have a third gold medalist with Pierre-Louis Barassi, another Lyonnais, never called until then. The French Federation made the announcement on the day of the victory over Argentina: she summoned him to compensate for the loss of center Wesley Fofana, 31, still injured on one thigh.
Generational back and forth. Fofana had already announced, in January, that he would retire at the end of this World Cup; edition which he will have disputed no minute.
So much for the Blueberries of 2018. For others have already succeeded in 2019 in the category of under 20 years, winning in June, a second world title in a row. Their coach, Sébastien Piqueronies, sees an explanation: "The consistency of our work upstream, our operation for four or five years already. "
Something else : "Trust between staff members, but also between staff and players. When it sizzles a little, this confidence can turn the unsuccessful matches into quality benefits thereafter, and not in an existential crisis where everything collapses. "
A stoicism that the great team of France will have time to meditate – including Captain Guilhem Guirado and Maxime Médard, world champions under 21 years … in 2006. Still several days of waiting before the next meetings you from the first round: against the United States, on October 2 in Fukuoka, then Tonga and, especially, England.