What the French newspapers are saying on Wednesday about the Test against the Springboks and the 2023 World Cup bid announcement.
‘At least we had a real match’ is the headline in Le Progres, the newspaper that serves the city of Lyon and where, on Tuesday evening, France lost to New Zealand in an entertaining and, ultimately, irrelevant match. A third-string All Blacks outscored a second-string French side 28-23 in a seven-try match that kept the crowd of 59,000 warm on a cold November night.
There were strong individual performances from young Stade Français flanker Sekou Macalou and the uncapped La Rochelle wing Gabriel Lacroix, who scored two tries in the first half and whose pace always asked questions of the New Zealand defence. The 24-year-old Lacroix said afterwards that he would love to play against the Springboks on Saturday, but L’Equipe believes that the best he can hope for is a place on the bench.
As for Scott Spedding’s prospects of lining up against the country of his birth in Paris on Saturday, L’Equipe declares that the Clermont fullback blew his chance with an indifferent performance in Lyon.
With two defeats in four days, France coach Guy Novès has already failed to hit Bernard Laporte’s target of three victories from their four end-of-year matches, but the FFR president wasn’t in Lyon to witness the latest defeat. Instead Laporte is in London for today’s announcement as to who will host the 2023 World Cup.
L’Equipe devotes a double-page spread to the decision under the headline ‘It Can Still Happen’. Aware that last month World Rugby recommended that South Africa should host the 2023 tournament, the paper says that there remains an outside chance France could win today’s vote. But L’Equipe struggles to convince itself.
‘The optimism of the French camp, once expressed with such emphasis that it bordered on arrogance, has little by little been extinguished,’ they write. If France does indeed lose the bid, adds L’Equipe, it will be ‘a slap in the face’ for Bernard Laporte, whose ‘image and aura will … inevitable be eroded’.
Le Figaro shares L’Equipe‘s pessimism, and believes that World Rugby’s English president, Bill Beaumont, has an ‘aversion’ to Laporte that has not helped the French cause.
The paper expects France to see off Ireland and finish second to South Africa in the first round of voting, but it can’t see Ireland’s supporters switching allegiance en masse to the French bid.
Compiled by Gavin Mortimer in Lyon