The ad fell just before the weather report. Without dissipating all the clouds that clouded the horizon of the XV of France for months. It is in the "20 hours" of TF1, the broadcaster of the competition, less than three weeks of kick-off, that Jacques Brunel communicated Monday, September 2, the list of thirty-one Bleus selected to play the Cup of the world in Japan. And by deduction, that of six recalted after a collective preparation of two months.
The national coach, who himself had put himself on his thirty-one, said apprehend the exercise of the television news. So he made sober. First names, names, and the minimum of explanations. Even at the press conference that followed, off "JT" in Boulogne-Billancourt (Hauts-de-Seine), still in the premises of the private channel.
This boarding list for Asia leaves little room for change from pre-selection. When Jacques Brunel made his appeal on June 18, he had submitted two separate lists. On the one hand, thirty-one players left with one step ahead. On the other, six theoretical reservists.
After two months of practice, two reservists finally won their place in the group for Japan: the third line Charles Ollivon (Toulon) and the pillar Cyril Baille (Toulouse), who had joined his comrades only on July 21, after the injury of another substitute, Etienne Falgoux.
"Cyril Baille took the train in motion, he made a lot of effort to get back to level", according to Brunel. Meanwhile, several kilos lost and two participations in the three test-matches of August: easy wins on the team of Scotland (32-3) and Italy (47-19), punctuated by a loss to the Scottish holders (17-14).
A third World Cup for Guirado and Picamoles
It is cruel, but arithmetical: of the six failed in September, two were among the thirty-one pre-selected in June. There is Dany Priso, the pillar of La Rochelle. And Felix Lambey, the second line of Lyon, yet one of the least disappointing at the last tournament of six nations, France had concluded a poor fourth place. Coach's justification: "When we had to make the choices, it seemed to us that Felix was a little behind in preparation and in the matches. "
Add to these cases a third reshuffle, of another kind: Virimi Vakatawa was not a reservist, nor did he replace a reservist in preparation. On August 20, three quarters center of Fijian origin took place directly in the thirty-one, summoned urgently after the package of Geoffrey Doumayrou.
Without indulging, the coach assures finally have an idea of the team that will start the World Cup against Argentina: "I have a big frame"
No other change, however, as for the third line. Louis Picamoles, Wenceslas Lauret and Yacouba Camara have finally retained their places, despite the competition of the reservist Francois Cros, very convincing against Scotland. "It's not his fault, commented the coach about him, but the others showed on the last match (against Italy, August 30) that they too wanted to be there. "
As to respond to critics who consider the Montpellier past, the coach stressed the"Experiment" of Picamoles, 33 years old. The same age as his future teammate in club, Guilhem Guirado (ex-Toulon), hooker and usual captain of the XV of France, also jostled this summer, with only a tenure. They alone are preparing to live their third World Cup with the national team.
Pass the first round will be a "challenge"
For the 2019 edition, Jacques Brunel has already said: to pass the first round of the World Cup would already represent a "Challenge". Not to mention a wager that seems out of place in this group C which, besides Tonga and the United States, also includes England and Argentina. Only the first two places of the pool will give access to the quarter-finals. Any other outcome would result in early elimination. And unpublished for the XV of France, until now three times finalist in eight World Cups.
The current squad is based on the last two finalists of the championship of France. Among the thirty-one players, eight play in Toulouse, seven in Clermont-Ferrand. Young offensive promises (Penaud, Dupont, Ntamack, to name a few) and the youngest (Huget, Guitoune, Médard, Fofana, Lopez) … that remains to be arranged on the ground. Without engaging, the coach ensures finally have an idea of the team that will start the World Cup against Argentina. "I have a big bone. " Less than three weeks from the event, it would be happy.
Ultimate precision: this September 2, Jacques Brunel took good care to prevent, before the official announcement, the six players retoqués – with Cros, Lambey and Priso, it is Romain Taofifenua, Vincent Rattez and Anthony Belleau. In June, he had not seen fit to do it with Mathieu Bastareaud, his former vice-captain though. A three-quarter center sacrificed, because considered too little mobile, and therefore not suited to the game as conceived today Fabien Galthie, new assistant of the coach, and already his future successor after the World Cup.