When you get an invite from Fabien Galthié that includes a buffet and a glass of wine with the local Mayor it is a wise move to accept.
The French coach’s appreciation of his nation’s rugby terroire has been instrumental in the current love affair between the national team and its people, it has not always been this way, but France will very definitely not be short of public love and support during their upcoming Rugby World Cup campaign.
The small village of Montgesty in the south of France is situated in the department of Lot in the Midi-Pyréneés with a population of under 300 people. It is also where Fabien Galthié grew up.
Last Tuesday the French management team welcomed us with open arms, even Shaun Edwards appeared hospitable although his smile is probably more scary than the familiar frown that inhabits his granite visage.
For the previous few days the management team had ensconced themselves in the peace and tranquility of Montgesty
The group consisted of:
Fabien Galthié, Coach
Raphaël Ibañez, Manager
Laurent Labit, Attack Coach
William Servat, Forwards Coach
Shaun Edwards, Defence Coach
Karim Ghezal, Assistant Forwards Coach
Thibault Giroud, Director of Performance
Nicolas Buffa, Head of Analysis
Bruno Boussagnol, Medical
On home soil Galthie was his usual cool charming self: “This is a time when we are preparing for our preparations. The programming of the preparation has now been done. The selection times, the work, the places, the friendly matches that will bring us slowly to September 8, everything is in place. We have the complete vision of the three months of preparation”
“With regard to squad selection we consider everyone, the injured, those returning from injury and there are still many matches to play, the European finals, the final phase of the Top 14. We will unveil our first list of 42 players on June 21. But, before that, on the Sunday following the play offs ( June 4), when ten Top 14 teams are eliminated, we will convene a first group of 23 players in Marcoussis for four days of preparation with the France under 20 team”.
“From Tuesday, we will restart our selection cycle with a ranking by position from one to six, or from one to seven. This will make a total of about one hundred players, all of whom will be informed that they are able to participate in the World Cup. There may be injuries, players called up at various stages so the windows are open which could be beneficial to long-term absentees such as Anthony Jelonch or Arthur Vincent and allow them to join the group when they are ready.
Given the long season that the players are in the process of completing, ending with the Top 14 final, full preparations will not begin until July 2 in Monaco to allow the players a two week break.
Galthie is very keen on creating a balance. Preparations and the World Cup tournament itself will extend to 17 weeks of living together, for the initial 42 man squad and the final 33 for the tournament itself.
During the three week training camp in Capbreton, they have chosen a site in a Seignosse holiday village where the party will stay in bungalows to break things up and avoid the drudgery of hotel life.
France have four warm up matches prior to their opening RWC match against New Zealand. They face Scotland twice, at Murrayfield on 5th August, and again in Saint-Etienne on 12 August. They then entertain Fiji in Nantes on 19 August.
The final 33 man Rugby World squad is announced on 21 August, before the final warm up game against Australia at Stade de France in Paris on Sunday August 27.
After that final warm up game France will take up residence at Rueil-Malmaison in the Hauts-de-Seine for the duration of RWC 2023.
A peaceful glass of Cahors behind the village church was a rare moment of tranquility for a group that have only one aim, to lift the Rugby World Cup in Paris on Saturday 28 October. Should that happen I would imagine a few more quiet glasses of Cahors will be consumed followed by many more noisy ones.