The success of the XV of France is also due to a sacred union of French rugby

Captain of the Blues, Antoine Dupont lifted the Six Nations Tournament trophy ahead of Bernard Laporte and René Bouscatel.

Not so long ago, the image would have been science fiction. The captain of the France team lifting the Six Nations Tournament trophy in front of the president of the French Rugby Federation (FFR) and that of the National Rugby League (LNR), all smiles, side by side. First of all because the Blues, in the doldrums for a decade, were far from claiming the title, until their revival, inspired by Fabien Galthié two and a half years ago. But also because, at the same time, the two institutions clashed on the question of the provision of players.

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Victory in the Six Nations Tournament on Saturday March 19 was certainly won above all on the pitch. But it is also largely due to the fact that the partners of captain Antoine Dupont have benefited for two years from a favorable context.

After years of dissension between increasingly powerful professional clubs favoring their economic and sporting health and a less and less influential XV of France against them, the two institutions have found common ground. From now on, the whole of the hexagonal ovality has put itself at the service of the Blues.

“The France team is the showcase of French rugby, it’s obvious”exposes Bernard Laporte, the president of the FFR, welcoming “the intelligence of the leaders of the NRL and the clubs”. “This excellent dynamic of the Blues is due to a collective desire to move forward together”, insists René Bouscatel, the president of the LNR.

“Some clubs have made very big sacrifices”

The coach of the XV of France Fabien Galthié and his general manager, Raphaël Ibanez, obtained, when they took office at the end of 2019 – after strong negotiations – that 42 players could be available at each meeting, against 31 for their predecessors. A significant step forward to allow the Blues to work serenely; a luxury, too, driven by the urgency of performing well at the World Cup at home, looming in 2023.

Obviously, there are counterparties to pay, and some clubs have made very big sacrifices, but have been able to accept it”, notes René Bouscatel. In addition to the duplicates between the international calendar and the Top 14 calendar, some teams – such as Stade Toulousain, the largest provider of internationals – have also seen their agenda turned upside down by the postponement of meetings due to Covid-19. But in the name of the best interests of the XV of France, the clubs concerned do not complain about the absence of their players – compensated by the League.

If Antoine Dupont and others were able to rest during the weeks without matches in the Tournament, under the agreement between the FFR and the LNR – and arrived in top form for the final matches of the competition -, their predecessors didn’t have that chance. Former coach Philippe Saint-André urged in 2015 that “French rugby is questioning itself to give players the means”.

“We were a bit like lab rats during the difficult yearsregretted the former captain of the XV of France Guilhem Guirado, interviewed on RMC on Friday March 18. We have the impression that the solution has just been found with the priority given to the France team, the protected players. We were on the go every weekend. »

Because the Blues and the Top 14 have known “years of fighting”summarizes Bernard Laporte. “For ten years, the League had been in command, and until 2016 [année de son élection], the Federation had little to say. » In direct opposition with Paul Goze, former president of the LNR, the former coach of the Blues insists that he fought for the France team, “became the last wheel of the coach of professional rugby” finds its place. The March 2021 election of René Bouscatel, who had focused his short campaign on warming relations between the two bodies, accelerated the appeasement.

“Now you [les Français] have the luxury of having 42 players for preparation. The clubs work with the Federation, so you have no more excuses”, had insisted the coach of England, Eddie Jones, before the start of the 2022 Tournament. The whole of tricolor rugby was put in battle order. And that should last until the World Cup in the fall of 2023.

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