New Zealand: How the Blues got back on track after their disastrous start

New Zealand: How the Blues got back on track after their disastrous start

At the Stade de France,

Fabien Galthiet's cast is a meticulous type, and we're starting to know it. Even more so for the World Cup opener against New Zealand. The preparations and handling of the match have been organized up to the moment, and as usual, several match scenarios have been put on the table so as not to be confused. But even perfect plans have drawbacks. Making the attempt when everyone is not yet seated (Mark Tilia, n.d.), for example. “It's a scenario we didn't necessarily think about,” admits Charles Ollivon.

We won't blame them, it has never happened so quickly in the first match of a World Cup. “At this first action, we were a little surprised, but we did not panic,” continues the third row of the Blues. We regrouped, breathed, and thought about the next game. Without procrastination, by staying within the framework, and in two or three sequences we obtained three points. » Thomas Ramos' penalty kick, three minutes later, gave everyone a break, then a second put the French in the lead. Except that on the field there was always this impression of playing on the back foot and being a little timid when attacking the All Blacks camp.

After that, the New Zealanders looked deadlier on the ball in the morning, and there was almost nothing (and a hungry Blues defence, all the same) for them to score another two tries. At the break, we wondered how the French XV managed to advance (9-8). “We are in the game with a first half that is close to being disastrous,” sums up Gabin Villiers. In the language of Fabien Galtier, it's closer to this: “You return to the locker room with the result but without controlling the game and giving easy keys to the opponent. We were affected by the pressure of the event even though we prepared well.

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'Our ears have been pulled'

The coach's theory was validated on the pitch by François Cros: “We were a bit tense, a bit nervous. We didn't really go up and look for them. The dangerous thing when we're nervous is that we tend to rely on more individual actions to free ourselves. We might as well be looking for them.” “It puts the team in a difficult position. But we talked about it at half-time. » If the walls of the French dressing room did not shake, Fabien Galtier's questioning was still salty. “We pulled Our ears.” “Yes, he slapped us on our fingers,” Gaban Villiers finally admitted under duress. [après deux relances, en fait]. But without much pressure or discomfort because we were all well aware of what needed to be improved. »

Back on the revamped pitch, the Blues almost scored from the start, but a small error two meters from the goal line stopped them, before Mark Tilia scored twice in the following playtime. It's frustrating, but here again this team has shown that over the past four years they have forged a character made of tempered steel. “We got back into it straight away and started hurting the opponent,” says Thomas Ramos. We knew how to keep possession, which we didn't do in the first half, which allowed us to play more often and move forward. » Until redemption, this first attempt with Damien Benaud (who else?) occurred at the end of an event where we found the game inspired by the blues, such as Mathieu Jalibert's trick of offering caviar to his wingman. “A real breath of fresh air,” says Gabin Villiers.

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Damien Benaud's joy after scoring the first French attempt in the match (55th place).– Themba Hadebe/AP/SIPA

Add to that the iron discipline (only four penalties were awarded throughout the match), the dominant pressing and the yellow card received by Will Jordan after the hour mark, and you get the turning point of the match. “There is yellow, yes, but there is also access to the bench which has benefited us,” confirmed François Cros. We carried the ball higher, with a growl, but it felt less dangerous. “We had fewer sequences in our 22.” The All Blacks never found the resources to reverse this trend.

The Blues finished the match freely amidst the fury of the pitch, with Ramos' foot and a final attempt from Melvin Jaminet to make the party even more beautiful. To provide France with two notable achievements: it became the first country to defeat New Zealand in the group stage since the Rugby World Cup, and it is the first country to defeat them by more than 12 points.

Our fifteenth file from France

“Even when we are average, it is very positive to win by scoring almost 30 points,” Antoine Dupont points out. not wrong. The All Blacks may not be the best team in history, but a win of this magnitude, especially in this context, is a challenge for your team. “There is a certain form of serenity that emerges,” says Arthur Vincent. Four years have passed since the adventure began, and a collective force has been created. We all have the same project in mind. “No need to paint us a picture.

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