L’entraîneur du MHR Jean-Baptiste Elissalde, quelques jours avant le début de la Coupe du monde en France, s’est livré sur France – Nouvelle-Zélande et son aventure de 2007. C’était avant que les All Blacks subissent une déculottée contre l’Afrique du Sud (35-7).
Quelle est votre opinion sur l’opponent de la France, les All Blacks, et la signification de cette équipe ?
First, we are in a group stage match. I believe they are a bit more vulnerable in knockout matches. In their league, they are not as accustomed to these high-pressure matches. The issue is not the Blacks, it’s the French. I think they have everything planned. I think Fabien has gathered information on how we experienced the 2007 World Cup.
Comment avez-vous passé l’année 2007 ?
At that time, I felt that we were under a lot of pressure. There were many tears, too many emotions during the opening match. We need to release it as much as possible during the week and focus on playing a rugby match. You know that you will have another chance afterwards, it wasn’t the same in 1999 and 2007 when we played against the Blacks.
In 2007, we were complete underdogs. Now, the Blacks know that France will be ready, they have been warned. These are two different contexts.
Can you rephrase the following text: « Coupe du monde de rugby 2023 : comment le XV de France veut s’éviter le traumatisme de 2007 ? »
Est-ce que la pression est écrasante à la maison ?
We had a really unique experience. We left Maroucssis. Motorcycles were following us everywhere, a helicopter was there. We were discovering all of this, maybe we stayed together for too long. They went to a campground. I think everything is prepared to feel the emotions of the people, the fervor, not be inhibited by the moment. They have been preparing for this for four years. I even think they are preparing for all scenarios against the Blacks, victory, defeat… But it’s not an elimination match.
Throughout the year, in Super Rugby, they play to earn bonuses. We, on the other hand, play to avoid losing, win by a single point, avoid relegation, and strive to move up.
Est-ce plus ardu de jouer contre les Blacks maintenant plutôt que lors des phases finales ?
They will be less on the edge to compete in this match as they will have a second chance. The elimination matches, Ireland and the Blacks are less familiar with. They don’t play many of them in their domestic championship, they have less of this thing called playoffs. Throughout the year, in Super Rugby, they play for bonuses. We play to avoid losing, to win by one point, to not go down, to move up. It’s part of our culture. So it’s different.
Avez-vous remarqué des changements chez Fabien Galthié depuis sa participation à la préparation de la Coupe du monde en 2019 ?
What I know is that during their four-year journey, the three months they spent with us or that we spent with them were very useful for them. Even just for preparation. We started preparing at 8, training at 23. Today they are 42, doing training camps with 50 people. They have everything they want. They do oppositions. For them, it was obvious that things needed to change and, in quotation marks, make sense. Having two teams to train, along with training partners to coach, manage physiological load, and seek higher intensities. In 2007, I believe there were two physical trainers and two video analysts. Today, they have twelve guys working for them, analyzing matches. Everything is different. And the team is different too with the generation they have. Everything is coming together, but now what remains is what is not tangible: the emotions of each individual, how they will experience these last moments together before arriving for the opening at the Stade de France.
Comment l’idée du haka a-t-elle émergé au sein du groupe en 2007 ?
I wasn’t particularly keen on doing this, but the team leaders had decided that something needed to be done to mark our territory. We were not prepared at all for this. In our path, it was about qualifying and playing at home, and we would encounter the Blacks later if we had to. But from the first match, it was a disaster, so we knew we would face the Blacks in the quarterfinals in Cardiff. We dressed in blue, white, and red, with Sébastien Chabal making faces even though he was a substitute. Personally, I thought it was a bad idea to provoke them even more. They were truly galactic. They had a formidable team. I think they felt so superior to us, and we were so afraid of being overwhelmed, that everything balanced out. Tactically, they were catastrophic: no kicking game, no drop goals. They had an easy start. After 20 minutes, I think we were on track to concede about thirty points. And then sometimes you are touched by grace. I believe we attacked four times, scored three times, sometimes with a slight forward pass.
Est-ce que cette fin de match, avec votre course et votre dégagement en touche, compte parmi vos meilleurs souvenirs en tant que joueur de l’équipe nationale ?
Yes, without a doubt. At that time, I was lucky that the scrum-half was making the second line, behind the ruck, well hidden. The guys were hitting, hitting, and I had to block the small gaps inside. I looked at the clock. It was never-ending. We tackled, we tackled, and at one point Sébastien Chabal, after making some faces, managed to rip the ball away and I knew there were a few seconds left. I had to run, that’s it. But it’s clearly not planned. Damien Traille looked at me passing by a bit perplexed, I remember that moment. When I saw him again afterwards, I thought it was a bit questionable. But well, that’s how it was, it wasn’t prepared.
Avez-vous eu du mal à gérer ce match après ?
Unfortunately, I believe we have lost a lot of momentum. If he could use that actually. Their rugby seems to be in place, I feel. I don’t really see what can happen. They handled the injury quite well with Romain Ntamack. I know they are supported by a psychologist who talks about all these moments, the preparation for the matches. So I think they are preparing everything. Now, it’s about how they will manage the highs and lows. And if they can do that, with the help of the crowd, I don’t really see what can happen to us.