Fabien Galthie insists France must adapt to life without star man Antoine Dupont

By Sports Desk January 31, 2024

Fabien Galthie says France must learn to play without star man Antoine Dupont and has challenged Maxime Lucu to fill the void ahead of their Guinness Six Nations opener against Ireland.

Toulouse scrum-half Dupont is a major absentee for the championship as he focuses on his country’s sevens squad for this year’s Paris Olympics.

Understudy Lucu will wear Les Bleus’ number nine shirt for Friday evening’s curtain-raiser in Marseille, with uncapped Racing 92 player Nolann Le Garrec, 21, providing cover from the bench.

La Rochelle number eight Gregory Alldritt has taken on the captaincy from Dupont, who was crowned player of the tournament in the three of the past four years.

Head coach Galthie told a press conference “It’s the moment to acknowledge Antoine.

“He chose an opening for the Olympics. It’s good to breathe, get out of what is usual in whatever way possible.

“He leaves a space, an opportunity for other players to take his shirt. Maxime Lucu has been with us since the start of our (journey) pretty much. He’s always been very good.

“It’s up to him to take charge of things, with his qualities, calmness, what he can do.

“We feel Nolann is ready to take on the role. I see this competitiveness in French rugby as a positive thing.

“Greg as a captain, leader, (full-back) Thomas Ramos and Maxime Lucu are part of them (the leadership team) now, they have to learn to play without Antoine.

“It will be interesting to see this different side of the French national team.”

Galthie’s starting XV shows five changes from the team which began France’s 29-28 Rugby World Cup quarter-final defeat to eventual winners South Africa on October 15.

 

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by AD (@antoinedupont9)

 

Yoram Moefana is preferred to Louis Bielle-Biarrey on the left wing, while Paul Gabrillagues and Paul Willemse are Les Bleus’ new lock pairing.

Francois Cros replaces the injured Anthony Jelonch at blindside flanker in the other alteration.

France, who were dethroned as Grand Slam champions by Ireland last year, are title favourites going into the competition.

“In four years, there hasn’t been a game without a requirement to win,” said Galthie.

“We’ve always heard the music in the background of requiring a win.

“There will be obstacles. The obstacles are the opponents. Before the World Cup, Ireland were world number one, now they’re world number two.

“We’re conscious of the run of games we have, South Africa, now Ireland, who also lost in the quarter-finals (to New Zealand).

“Defeats are part of the journey, as are obstacles. We like it, pressure, requirements, it’s not a problem for us, we’re here for that. We’re solid.”

Related items

  • John Mitchell: England motivated to fill Twickenham with captivating displays John Mitchell: England motivated to fill Twickenham with captivating displays

    England ran riot against Ireland with head coach John Mitchell revealing their pivot to an all-action attack is designed to fill Twickenham.

    A crowd of 48,778 watched the Red Roses plunder 14 tries in an 88-10 victory that keeps them on course to win a sixth successive Guinness Women’s Six Nations title when they face France in a likely Grand Slam decider next weekend.

    Unstoppable wing Abby Dow and player of the match Ellie Kildunne completed hat-tricks, but there were fireworks across the field as England delivered on their promise to put on a show.

    Their ultimate aim is to run out at next year’s home World Cup in front of a sold-out Twickenham and Mitchell insisted that can only be achieved by captivating audiences with a style of play no longer based on forward dominance.

    “The girls presented a performance that went up a gear. We asked that of them during the week and they certainly delivered it,” the Kiwi said.

    “We’ve got a drive to fill the stadium on a consistent basis because we want to play here consistently.

    “If we can continue to produce performances like that it won’t be too long before we do fill all the seats. From that point of view, it’s only that style of rugby that will bring people to watch us.

    “We know we have other strengths as well, but this is a good sign and we’re only in the infancy of it.

    “It’s a testament to the girls because they go out and own it and see the rewards from it.”

    England have amassed 228 points after four rounds of the Six Nations, conceding only 20, and the lopsided scoreline at Twickenham is an ugly look for the competition.

    “I’m sure some people will chat about the competitiveness, but at the end of the day we drive ourselves in the way we prepare and that’s all we can focus on,” Mitchell said.

    “We’re not really in a position to judge the competition or its competitiveness. Our standards in the way we prepare have gone up a little bit in terms of level.”

    Ireland head coach Scott Bemand admitted his side were left “shell-shocked” by the game’s dominant force.

    “Tough day at the office. We came up against the market leaders but we’ll dust ourselves down and come back next week,” he said.

    “This was a big game for a youthful group. Could we have predicted a margin like that? Probably not.”

  • England overwhelm Ireland to keep Six Nations title hopes firmly on track England overwhelm Ireland to keep Six Nations title hopes firmly on track

    England thrilled a bumper crowd at Twickenham by overwhelming Ireland 88-10 to set up a likely Grand Slam decider against France next weekend.

    The Red Roses amassed 14 tries in front of 48,778 fans with the unstoppable Abby Dow and Ellie Kildunne completing hat-tricks, while Megan Jones and Jess Breach each crossed twice.

    For all Dow’s finishing instincts, it was full-back Kildunne who shone brightest through a captivating display in attack, and her athleticism was a constant threat to Ireland.

    It was an ugly final scoreline for the tournament but Ireland at least managed to touch down by forcing a penalty try.

    Scrum-half Natasha Hunt promised England would “put on a show” and by securing the try-scoring bonus point inside the opening quarter, they duly delivered despite losing lock Rosie Galligan to a thumb injury during the warm-up.

    Dow left a trail of green shirts on the ground to begin the onslaught and Hunt was the next to score after making a dynamic solo break.

    The tone had been set and what followed was a procession with Kildunne at the vanguard, the Harlequin’s electric running sweeping her into open space time and again.

    A cheeky dummy kick launched one gliding charge out of defence and Ireland were having to scramble furiously to contain a player who has the ambition of becoming the best in the world.

    When she crossed on the half-hour mark it was a simple finish to a move started by England’s line-out maul as the home pack asserted itself up front.

    Hooker Lark Atkin-Davies was helped off with an injury but the rout continued when sharp handling and a vast gap in the Ireland midfield invited Dow over for her second.

    The Irish ran out of defenders as Breach switched on the afterburners to race over, and just eight minutes into the second half England surpassed 50 points for the first time in this Six Nations when Sadia Kabeya powered over.

    Ireland were outclassed but showed plenty of fight against the game’s dominant force and their determination paid off when they were awarded a penalty try for seeing a driving maul thwarted illegally.

    Lucy Packer was sent to the sin-bin as a result, but England still scored next when Jones weaved a path through the opposition midfield.

    Emily Scarratt received a loud cheer when she replaced Tatyana Heard and Dow ran in her third, ushering in a traumatic final quarter for Ireland who were swamped by better conditioned opponents.

  • Mo Hunt wants Grand Slam-chasing England to put on a show at Twickenham Mo Hunt wants Grand Slam-chasing England to put on a show at Twickenham

    Mo Hunt insists England are ready to thrill a bumper audience at Twickenham when they face Ireland in the Guinness Women’s Six Nations on Saturday.

    A crowd of up to 50,000 is expected to watch the Red Roses continue their Grand Slam quest in their first match at the venue since last year’s rollercoaster victory over France that clinched the title.

    England have averaged 47 points a game in their three wins to date but Hunt wants the attack that has been enhanced under head coach John Mitchell to take another step forward.

    “We just want it to click for us. There are 47,000 in Twickenham from what I have been told and we want to put on a show,” said the Gloucester-Hartpury scrum-half, who is enjoying a Test resurgence since missing out on the 2022 World Cup.

    “The best is yet to come for us, I truly believe that. We’ve spoken about the discipline and the penalties, but also our one-team attack – every time we train it is starting to look better and better.

    “I just want it to click so you can all see what we are seeing in training because we’ve not got there yet.

    “I’m really enjoying the way we are trying to play, how positive everything is and the way we are trying to go after defences. It’s the way I want to play rugby.”

    England have a 100 per cent record in the tournament despite seeing Sarah Beckett and Amy Cokayne sent off against Italy and Scotland, respectively.

    The red cards have fed into the ‘game is unfair’ mantra adopted under Mitchell as the Kiwi looks to turn the game’s dominant force into world champions by preparing them for moments when circumstances have conspired against them.

    Lydia Thompson’s dismissal for a high tackle on Portia Woodman that contributed to England’s defeat by New Zealand in the 2022 World Cup final has given Mitchell’s message powerful affirmation.

    “When Mitch put a picture up of Lyds and said ‘the game isn’t fair’, it hit so many of us in our hearts because Lyds is the most unbelievable human and obviously that moment was tough for everyone,” Hunt said.

    “I’m not saying it was the right or wrong decision, but sometimes the game is unfair and when you go down to 14 in a final you have to fight your way out of that.

    “If I’m in the thick of these decisions all the time and every time I don’t quite agree with something, that sentence genuinely rings true. I think, ‘game is unfair – move on’.”

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.