And here are purple curtains. Protections deployed to dissuade journalists from any look on the ground. But not enough to chase the questions at the beginning of the week, in Kumamoto, in the hall of the training stadium. In particular, the structural one of the captaincy. Not least, in a team sport. Which player to assume the function, set the tone on the pitch, relay the words of the coaches?
In its first three victorious matches in this 2019 World Cup, the French XV have already counted three captains: the hooker Guilhem Guirado against Argentina, the third-line Louis Picamoles against the United States and the pillar Jefferson Poirot against Tonga.
It will not be known if the fourth and final group match against England would have seen a new change of armband wearer: the meeting, scheduled for Saturday, October 12, was canceled due to typhoon.
"You asked a lot of questions about that" Guilhem Guirado, captain of the Blues against Argentina
"You asked a lot of questions about that"already noticed Guirado just before the start of the World Cup. Since then, the Toulonnais (and future Montpelliérain) is away from press conferences and other media events. The official word is pretty clear. On paper, Guirado "Remains our leader", the official captain of the XV of France, according to his coach, Jacques Brunel, who affirmed it from August.
In the field, it's less clear. The choice to relegate the hooker on the bench against the United States and Tonga can be interpreted doubly. Or to make it blow in the two games a priori the least difficult of the first round. Either to give the free field to the young Camille Chat, appeared more in legs.
Poirot, captain of the future
In the players, unanimous speech: "The armband belongs to Guilhem Guirado. " This 1st October, Poirot was speaking on the eve of the match against Tonga, where he took the job. As he had already done against Scotland and Italy in preparation match, in August, in the absence of Guirado on the ground.
"This summer has changed things: it has created links other than rugby. It's easier to get the messages across. Jefferson Poirot, captain of the Blues against Tonga
Normally, the captain's press conference is a solitary exercise. In Kumamoto, the Bordeaux pillar proceeded with two players at his side. Also, to better distribute the pressure.
"When we see him playing, we understand that he knows how to lead his men. He shows the way, gives himselfsaid of him the second-line Sebastien Vahaamahina. "He is very attentive, continues Maxime Médard. He is the captain of the future. " And already of the present, therefore, intermittently.
This is reflected in his answers, his smiles: Poirot, 26, is comfortable. "In the past, I had so little common experience with this team that it was quite difficult to project myself on the task of captain", he recalls. Before renting the benefits of preparation with his teammates. "This summer has changed things: it has created links other than rugby. Behind, it's easier to get messages across. "
A changing hinge
These reflections around the captaincy date back to the last Six Nations Tournament. In February, the day after the sinking (44-8) in England, it would have been a question of entrusting the captaincy to Poirot and dispossessing Guirado. An initiative of Serge Simon, vice-president of the French Rugby Federation, according to the daily newspaper The Team.
Since the start of the World Cup, the appointment of Fabien Galthié as assistant coach of Jacques Brunel has added uncertainty. The technician worked with Guirado in Toulon, during the 2017-2018 season. Not a clear success. Neither for the player nor for the coach, the latter being dismissed at the end of the season.
"Inside the group, we asked fewer questions than you," assured Guirado before the match against Argentina. "There are relays for coaches: me, Jeff (Poirot), experienced players, the hinge. " A hinge, too, unstable: three games and already three duets tenured at essential positions of half-open and half scrum.
Without Guirado, and without Poirot, it is therefore Louis Picamoles who took over against the United States, captain for the first time at 33 years. "Louis already shoulder Guilhem daily: he is the most capped, the one who has been there for the longest", tells the center Gael Fickou, about the only two players in the group to play their third World Cup with the Blues.
Next appointment: the quarter-final at Oita, Sunday, October 20th. The Blues will face the Welsh or, weak hypothesis, the Australians. With what captain?