Louis Picamoles, who has been selected 82 times, has participated in three Rugby World Cups with the French national team (2011, 2015, 2019). The Montpellier player reflects on specific moments from each tournament.
Quelle a été votre expérience la plus intense émotionnellement lors d’une Coupe du monde ?
It’s difficult. I have experienced three World Cups, each time with a different status and a different personal perspective. For me, the three are incomparable. The only thing they have in common is that I am in a very bad position to be selected. And yet, I participate in all three. There was always this suspense of whether I would be included or not. It was incredibly intense.
Maybe 2019 was the most emotionally intense year. I knew it was my final goal. I didn’t want to undergo surgery for my groin injury that season because otherwise, it was game over.
The strongest team.
It’s difficult. The year where I felt the most collective strength was 2019. It’s true that, logically, we could talk about 2011 where we reached the finals, which we should have won by the way. But in terms of competition, where I had this feeling of being part of a group that could move mountains, it was 2019. That’s why I have a lot of faith in this 2023 team.
A lire aussi : VIDEO. Coupe du monde de rugby : le jour où Louis Picamoles a craqué face à Richie McCaw
Which was the worst humiliation: 2011 against Tonga, or 2015 against New Zealand?
In 2011, there was a significant humiliation. However, it is compensated by the fact that you reach the final.
2015, still… You score sixty points… Even though the Blacks are world champions, it’s still a quarter-final. There are a couple of turning points in the match. At one point, we were trailing 29-13 but we managed to regain control. We had an advantage in their 22, and I received a yellow card for an action against Richie McCaw. That put us back in a difficult situation.I do not have any impact on his face. I am convinced that if it’s not the All Blacks, not Richie McCaw, he wouldn’t even whistle a foul. I have immense respect for this player and his career. But it’s as if he has gained some kind of special treatment, never being called out when he pushes the limits. And that’s what makes him one of the greatest players of all time.
Behind, we try again and let go. The score is humiliating because you let go for 20 minutes. There is no more match. In 2011, you lose against Tonga by giving it your all, but then you have a chance to redeem yourself. Not here. In 2015, we could have done whatever we wanted before, but we would have stayed with the team that conceded 60 points in a quarter-final.
Qui est le joueur le plus puissant contre lequel vous avez joué ?
Quel est le match le plus stressant ?
Contre le pays de Galles en quart de finale, le dernier match en 2019. Tu es à rien. C’est encore un match qu’on ne doit jamais perdre.
We can imagine that Sébastien Vahaamahina deeply regrets this action…
Oh yes. And anyone who says otherwise is not being honest. Anyone else, it would have been the same. Rugby, already tough with fifteen players, but with fourteen… Especially since the action is stupid. But it won’t be the first or the last to make this kind of gesture. It’s even more frustrating because you have the game under control, and you have a penalty kick within the opponents’ 22-meter line.
Quel est le geste que vous regrettez le plus ?
Oh yes. It was a group that was about to explode. I felt a strong force within this team.
La personne la plus compétente avec qui vous avez joué.
There are a lot of them. For me, in terms of consistency, it’s Gaël (Fickou). Since he was called up at 18 years old, he has always been selected and performed well, except when injured. He has never missed a gathering, except when injured. Plus, he is a guy who has many qualities, a hard worker, and has a clear mind. He is like a little brother to me. We have remained very close.
La Coupe du monde à l’atmosphère différente.
L’atmosphère la plus bizarre, c’est peut-être 2015. Je ne sentais pas une osmose dans le groupe. Je ne pourrais pas vous expliquer pourquoi, mais il n’y avait pas un groupe focus sur le même truc. Il y avait trop de choses qui parasitaient.
In 2011, there was a split with the staff, but the group remained united, which is why I think we made it to the finals. In 2015, there were some great moments, but we sometimes lacked character. Personally, I felt that. However, in 2019, it was the best. Personally, I’m not a fan of him and I didn’t always connect with him, but Fabien Galthié’s contribution was enormous. For me, there is a before and after Galthié. Whether you like the man or not, a coach is not there to be your friend. He took us to the next level. And he had the intelligence to build a staff that brings what he doesn’t bring.
Avez-vous eu un cercle d’amis proche pendant les compétitions ?
At the core, there are the guys from your club. In terms of preparation, you are between 35 and 40, so you cannot be friends with everyone. The key is to have a common goal, to be as honest as possible while being skillful.
Afterwards, you create a circle. In 2019, we got a tattoo of something: the Pica gang. It appealed to me. We would do the pirate sign. There were about ten of us who were close for a long time. It could have been harmful because you create a subgroup within a group. But for me, it wasn’t. We had genuine affectionate bonds between us. It didn’t prevent us from having the same goal as everyone else, to be positive with the group and give our best in training. It’s important to have moments where we are all together.
I have been labeled as a partygoer. Personally, I firmly believe that it is crucial to have moments where you disconnect from the rugby sphere and seek other things from your teammates that you don’t have on the field or in videos. I have the ability to find these emotions when I’ve had 2-3 drinks. However, I would never force someone to drink. What I don’t like is when people lock themselves in their rooms and watch series instead of playing cards or spending time with us. Have a coke, a Perrier, and stay with us. But don’t bother me just because I’ve had ten beers. Did it prevent me from giving my best? I may not have been the one running the most on the field, but I gave my all, with my flaws and qualities. Don’t annoy me if I need this to achieve our common goal.
If you watch series with your headphones on in bed, it doesn’t become your family.
What is the best 3?e mi-temps ?
There have been a few. 2011, after the Tonga match, for example. Not everyone went crazy. But it was a moment where we all came together. Things needed to be said. Some needed to let off steam, others didn’t… But we experienced it together. And we took care of each other at that time. It was crucial in our ability to bounce back and give ourselves a chance to win a World Cup.
The common goal is the essence of team sports. What you experience on the field is the most important. But without the off-field aspects, I don’t believe in it. When you look at winning teams, I’m not far from the truth. It’s rare to hear of a team winning when they have no connection, haven’t had a party or barbecue together. It doesn’t become your family if you watch series with your helmet on in bed.
The biggest clown in the locker room.
Oh, there are some who have stupidity.
Frédéric Michalak ?
In 2015, he was a bit of a father figure. But he still had a bit of foolishness. That’s what’s also appreciated. Despite his status, he maintains this playful spirit. And it helps, in its own way. Sofiane Guitoune does too. He brings a certain joy to the team.
Le plus tricheur ?
Je suis convaincu que certaines personnes diraient que je suis l’un de ces hommes.
Le plus coquet ?
Gaël Fickou. Il est toujours bien sapé, les petites crèmes qui vont bien. Il n’a pas un cheveu sur le crâne et il met se met une espèce de cire… Je lui dis toujours : « Tu me fais quoi là ? » Il y a match avec Fufu (Fulgence Ouedraogo) aussi. Il me soûlait, je devais lui mettre sa crème tous les soirs là.