Les Bleus s’étaient écroulés d’entrée contre l’Argentine (12-17) à la surprise générale lors du match d’ouverture de la Coupe du monde 2007.
« I cannot reword »
Remember. The French team is hosting the World Cup. They come off a victory in the Tournament, a triumphant tour in England. Expectations are high around Ibanez, Pelous, Betsen, Jauzion or Dominici. The first match against Argentina seems like a formality. But it’s a cold shower. The Pumas devour the French who are paralyzed by the event, the enthusiasm. 17-12, the slap stings. « Their locker room door was open before the match. I saw their faces. They were as white as their towels, » recalls former Argentine scrum-half Augustin Pichot.
Hors de question pour Fabien Galthié de vivre le même trauma, commettre les mêmes erreurs. Le sélectionneur français a d’ailleurs appelé tous ses prédécesseurs pour savoir comment chacun avait préparé son équipe à la compétition planétaire.
« In 2007, I think we had spent too much time together, » recalls Jean-Baptiste Elissalde, scrum-half of that era. « We had spent two months in Marcoussis, maybe too isolated. When we went out to go to the stadium and saw the motorcycles following us, the helicopters… We were not ready. »
So, the coaching staff of the French XV prepared their group to avoid being overwhelmed with emotions during the opening match, especially against such a strong opponent like the All Blacks. « We went to Monaco, Cap Breton, and Seignosse. We showed the guys around the area, » one of the coaches, Karim Ghezal, said with a smile. « Fabien talked to Raph about how we approached the preparation compared to 2007. We didn’t want to isolate ourselves for two months. We tried to vary our stays and involve our families, » Laurent Labit added.
The French team even stayed at a campsite for two weeks. And it was not privatized. Feeling the connection with the fans, interacting with them, sharing a common moment… Nothing was left to chance. « I think everything is prepared to feel the emotions of the people, the enthusiasm. Just to not be inhibited on the big day, » Elissalde analyzes.
The three friendly matches in France are also not insignificant. Geoffroy-Guichard, La Beaujoire, and the Stade de France… These legendary venues have also allowed the French players to feel the excitement around them. All of this was a preparation before the crash test, this Friday.