France coach Galthié says Ireland have ability to achieve ‘wonderful things’

France’s Six Nations prospects appear to hinge significantly on new captain Dupont

Kieran Crowley is the only head coach at yesterday's Guinness Six Nations launch who will be leading a team into the Championship for the first time. Italy have lost 32 Championship games in succession since a 22-19 win over Scotland at Murrayfield in the third round in 2015 and on the opening weekend face pre-tournament favourites France on Sunday week in Paris.

Crowley described Les Bleus as “the team of the moment” after an unbeaten November in which they provided the highlight of the Autumn Series with their thrilling 40-25 win over New Zealand.

France have finished twice in two previous attempts under Fabien Galthié and go into the 2022 Guinness Six Nations as favourites to win a first title since 2010.

“Obviously we are very happy and very proud to be considered the team of the moment. It touches us and we find that very moving,” said Galthié. “We had, of course, a good performance in the autumn, but we have to bear in mind our first game will be against Italy. They have Latin spirit and have everything to win. They have a very, very specific profile.

Great ability

“Talking about Ireland, which will be our second game, they are undefeated since February this year, the same as France. They have won every game [since], and they defeated the All Blacks in November. So they have a great ability to achieve wonderful things. They are also ahead of us in the IRB World Rankings, they’re number four,” said Galthié, also noting that Scotland, Wales or England could win the tournament.

French prospects would appear to hinge significantly on their new captain, World Player of the Year Antoine Dupont, who was man of the match in his last appearance on December 11th when leading Toulouse to their Heineken Champions Cup win over Cardiff on December 11th.

Tiredness, a knee problem and the vexed cancellation of Toulouse’s game at home to Cardiff last Sunday have sidelined him since, and in his absence Toulouse have suffered defeats by Clermont and Wasps.

Dupont has since tested positive for Covid-19, along with club team-mates Romain Ntamack, Cyril Baille, François Cros and Anthony Jelonch as well as three others, with none able to join the French squad at the start of this week.

“I have spoken to him and he is doing well,” said Galthié. “Today he had a test at his club and depending on the results he will play or not for Toulouse this weekend. That is up to his head coach Ugo Mola and I have confidence in him that he will take the right decision both for his team and for Antoine.”