[VIDEO] Rugby World Cup 2023: How the French team’s staff selects its squads and Galthié draws inspiration from Darwin.

The composition of the French team against Namibia was the subject of questioning this week. But how does the staff plan their group every week?

Starters, substitutes – sorry, « finishers » -, « premiums », « hairdressers »… The team composition of the French XV has its own lexical field. Depending on the importance of a match, certain words are used more than others. The ones used against Uruguay (27-12) last week are different from those used against Namibia this Thursday, as the « finishers » will make way for the usual starters. The word « premium » was removed by its creator Fabien Galthié during the summer matches.

The decision to realign this starting team is surprising. Facing the weakest team in the group, one could reasonably expect the staff to make significant changes. Just like they did against Uruguay. However, the two-week break between Namibia and Italy ultimately convinced the staff to field the best players. The poor performance against Uruguay? According to their statements, it had no influence whatsoever. « I noticed that there was a potential change in direction after Uruguay. There isn’t. There is also no long-term planning [regarding the lineups], » Galthié assures.

Comment la composition de l’équipe est-elle déterminée ? Qui prend la décision ? Quels critères sont pris en compte ?

L’adaptabilité, le secret

First, there is the « first circle ». Six coaches propose a team every day starting from the day after a match: Fabien Galthié, Raphaël Ibanez, Karim Ghezal, Laurent Labit, William Servat, and Shaun Edwards. And if an agreement is not reached among the six, « Fabien is the one who makes the final decision, » Ghezal confided last June.

The team’s construction mechanics are precise. « We have a vision based on the situation, playing time, performance, and competition within the group. Some players come to fight for the jersey in the locker room, » said the French coach. For example, Louis Bielle-Biarrey started on Thursday instead of a disappointing Gabin Villière.

After the second day, the players know whether they are starters or on standby due to an injury.

« On a typical week with seven days of preparation. By the end of the second day, the players know if they are starting or on standby due to an injury. And it’s on the third day that we reveal the team to them, » Fabien Galthié adds.

In this context, a group of 23 players is chosen. « There is no reaction or change of direction, our method is based on adaptability. It’s a bit like Darwin’s theory, it’s not the strong and intelligent species that survive, but the ones that adapt, » concludes the former coach of MHR. And a touch of philosophy to crown the development of the French team composition.