From our special correspondent in Cardiff,
It’s alright, the master of the world (of rugby) has given his consent. “From now on, we can afford to talk about the Grand Slam,” Antoine Dupont said on Friday evening, after the concrete success in Wales (9-13). We know it will be on everyone’s lips, it will be all over the media this week. †
Without wishing to upset the captain of the XV of France, this expression has been circulating among fans for a long time, as magical as the formula “Wingardium leviosa” for Harry Potter lovers. All have made an appointment against England next Saturday, in a sold-out Stade de France or at the bottom of the bench.
Correct the hated opponent and win the Grail? Look no further, there is nothing more fun. “It’s the ideal scenario, Romain Ntamack admitted after resisting the attacks in Wales. It’s the one we wanted for the start of this tournament: we did everything we could to be there. “But it must not escalate throughout the week,” warned Dupont’s accomplice in Toulouse as with the selection.
The main poison is probably called “euphoria”. But even warned of the danger, we really want to get a good shot out of it. For having outclassed Italy (37-10), shocking Ireland (30-24), beating Scotland (17-36) and thus subjugating Wales (9-13), France seems a tone above an Albion that we have known more insidious.
“England is, in quotes, becoming a formality”
When we called him at the beginning of the week to talk about the talent of the French forwards, the former 2nd international line Olivier Brouzet had also let us go, without being pushed: “Wales is fine to be something. If we win in Cardiff, England, in quotes, is a formality. We’ve never lost a Grand Slam game. †
The 1999 vice world champion knows what he’s talking about, as he scored two clear rounds in the tournament, in 1998 and 2002. The ninth and final date of the Blues dates back to 2010, in other words, in the era of flip phones. It had already ended against our best enemies (12-10) with three penalties from Morgan Parra and a drop from François Trinh-Duc. Another era, we tell you…
Where is England 12 years later? It can still win the tournament, provided it beats Ireland this Saturday at Twickenham (also affected by the overall win) and then moves on to the Stade de France. “She is the World Cup finalist. one of the great nations of world rugby,” said Galthié, who was not about to announce that he expected a formality against a team with broken arms.
Without going that far, Eddie Jones’ formation no longer quite resembles the plague that only vexed the Blues, with a grin from Owen Farrell as a bonus. The England captain has an ankle injury. His opening and armbar replacements, the young Marcus Smith and the grumpy Courtney Lawes, are bursting with talent and aggressiveness respectively, but the team seems to be seeking each other and their coach rumbles as the defeat in Scotland (20-17), Tournament entry , or the halftime appearance against the Welsh (23-19).
All Terrain Blues
For them, the English will find a XV of France that is sure of its talent and terrain. A formation that is able, depending on the opponent and the moment, to revive the spirit of French flair thanks to the brilliant flashes of Dupont and Ntamack, to steer very hard with Grégory Alldritt and Paul Willemse or to erect barbed wire with all its players, united .
“We’re all brothers on and off the field,” cried the road Peaky Blinders the rugged Willemse in the corridors of Cardiff, while coach Wayne Pivac and his captain Dan Biggar swore allegiance to “the best team in the world”.
The Ghost of Covid
Launched to conquer “his” World Cup, in 2023, Galthié’s French team finally seems ready to conquer something different from the hearts of rugby fans, after its failures in the 2020 and 2021 tournaments and, more anecdotally, in the 2020 Autumn Cup final and on the tour to Australia last summer. “This is our third season, we are learning, we have better balanced the efforts in this competition,” appreciates the coach of a France XV who, in addition to the Grand Slam, was able to win an eighth success in a row, which equals his record from 2004.
Confidence at the top, world-class stars, an almost inexhaustible pool of players, crowds piping hot at home and out… It’s hard to see what could derail the attractive All Blacks players in the fall (40-25) . Aside from the Covid, which has already plagued the Blues in previous years and made a remarkable comeback this week hitting Damian Penaud and Romain Taofifenua. Or, in spite of everything, the English who, according to Romain Ntamack, “want to spoil the party”, and almost all sensible people. That said, wanting is good, can is better.