Six Nations 2018: Familiar feelings for France

Controversy on and off the pitch for Les Bleus does not bode well for this year’s championship

Jacques Brunel has quite the task ahead of him with France in this year’s Six Nations. Photo: Getty Images

Jacques Brunel has quite the task ahead of him with France in this year’s Six Nations. Photo: Getty Images

 

France

You Bet: Winner 16/1, Grand Slam 66/1.

Form: LLDLLLW.

Last Year: Third.

Les Bleus come into this year’s Six Nations with an all too familiar feeling of controversy surrounding the national side. The French are, of course, no strangers to bust ups off the pitch and at board level but the current situation perhaps outweighs previous conflict with former fullback Serge Blanco, for one, describing it as not having “reached such proportions before”. It centres around the sacking of Guy Novès as head coach for what the French Rugby Federation describe as “serious misconduct” and a breach of contract. Jacques Brunel has left his role with Bordeaux-Begles to replace Noves but the controversy rumbles on in the board room.

On the pitch performances have hardly been inspiring either - France managed only seven wins in 21 Tests under Noves with the recent November internationals resulting in losses to New Zealand and South Africa and a fortuitous draw against Japan. 

However, as we’ve seen before in all sports, controversy can occasionally lead to success if the players adopt a siege mentality approach. If France are to do that however they will be doing so without Clermont Auvergne centre Wesley Fofana who has been ruled out for three months. The Top 14 side announced that Fofana has been diagnosed with a cervical disc herniation after complaining of “symptoms that alarmed the Clermont medical staff”.

The French national team doesn’t quite represent the juggernaut of the Top 14 or some of the club sides with many proclaiming this to be the problem in that some of the bigger clubs have now outstripped the national side in terms of support and general levels of interest. The French could change that with a successful Six Nations campaign but they will very much be underdogs in attempting to do so. For Brunel and his side it could all come down to the opening game against Ireland in Paris - win and the good feeling will be back while they will also have laid down a marker to the other teams, lose and the ill-feeling remains, more questions are asked and French rugby continues to slip further into the mire. RC

Guy Noves lost his job as France coach, kicking off a string of controversies. Photo: Henry Browne/Getty Images
Guy Noves lost his job as France coach, kicking off a string of controversies. Photo: Henry Browne/Getty Images

The Coach: Jaques Brunel was FFR president Bernard Laporte’s forwards coach at the 2003 and 2007 World Cups. He maintained Italy’s mediocrity during his five year reign before a stint with Bordeaux-Begles before replacing Guy Noves.

The Captain: Guilhem Guirado, the ferocious Toulon hooker – ask Dave Kearney – at 31 is easily the oldest member of this callow squad.

One to Watch: Matthieu Jalibert. The 19-year-old Bordeaux outhalf should pass out 21-year-old Anthony Belleau but with only two outhalves in the squad 2023 plans are clearly in motion. GC

Fixtures: France v Ireland (Saturday, February 3rd - kick off: 4.45pm), Scotland v France (Sunday, February 11th - kick off: 3pm), France v Italy (Friday, February 22nd - kick off: 8pm), France v England (Saturday, March 10th - kick off: 4.45pm), Wales v France (Saturday, March 17th - kick off: 5pm).

Prediction: A draw with Japan in November and losing 4-0 to South Africa in 2017, it can only get better for France. Should win one so fifth.

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