What’s Behind France’s Renaissance in the Six Nations 2020

What’s Behind France’s Renaissance in the Six Nations 2020

Six Nations: What’s it like to work under France coach Fabien Galthie? https://t.co/CStHXrBko1 — Keith Evans (@removalman123) March 5, 2020 Wh

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While few would have expected England to go to France at the start of the Six Nations and totally dominate Les Bleus, the manner of the French team’s win over the World Cup runners-up was a surprise.

The partisan crowd that, for many years has seen their country flatter to deceive, saw a rejuvenated side come out of the blocks with pace and guile to lead at half-time 17-0. England were caught on their heels but that should take nothing away from the French team’s impressive display.

That has continued throughout the Six Nations. Paddy Power’s Rugby betting odds had Les Bleus odds-on favourites to retain a crown they last held in 2010 before a tough away loss at Scotland scuppered their perfect record. That hasn’t deterred the bookies from ranking them among the leading contenders for the 2023 World Cup, a tournament France are clearly building for. At 5/1, Fabien Galthie’s blues are fancied ahead of Ireland, Australia and Wales. New Zealand are current favourites for the title.

The French showed flashes of brilliance in last year’s World Cup, succumbing to a powerful Welsh side in a tightly contested Quarter Final. But their defeat by a single point meant they left Japan disappointed. Thankfully, change was imminent. Fabien Galthie has succeeded Jacques Brunel and brought with him a change of approach and mentality (thanks to his impassioned coaching style), and a refresh of the ranks (with young players getting the opportunity to shine).

It prompted England head coach Eddie Jones to comment before his side’s Six Nations opener at the Stade de France that while it was a “traditional” set up for the French team, it was “interesting” that Galthie was putting faith in many inexperienced starters.

England were poor and their sports stars did not perform. The Press Association’s match coverage called it “one of the worst performances of the Eddie Jones era”. But for all of England’s failures on the day – one being a serious lack of leadership on the field – France were excellent. Indeed, they found themselves 24-0 up after half-time before England found their groove thanks, almost exclusively, to Johnny May’s efforts on the wing.

From Galthie’s perspective, despite seeing his team tire towards the end of the contest, allowing England to make the score appear respectable, he got what he would have hoped for. As a player he was in a 1990s French team that found a consistency, toughness and discipline so often lacking in recent years. Against England, and throughout the 2020 Six Nations, they’ve displayed those attributes.

After Galthie masterminded a brilliant win in Wales, Paul Eddison wrote on sixnationsrugby.com that the “feel-good factor” is back among the French squad. Of course, that’s helped by Antoine Dupont emerging as one of the best scrum-halves in world rugby. But the French coaching staff will be overjoyed at the sight of young players like Romain Ntamack coming of age in the biggest games of their careers.

Instead of running and hiding on the international stage, France’s youthful team are flourishing. For Galthie and his coaching staff, the success they’ve seen so far is clearly just the start as this dynamic side continues to get better and better.