France head coach Fabien Galthie believes Les Bleus will be “the team to beat” at this year’s Rugby World Cup on home soil.
The French start their campaign by hosting New Zealand on 8 September and have tasted defeat on their own turf on just one occasion since Galthie took over in December 2019.
Former Test captain Galthie has overseen impressive victories over the likes of New Zealand, Australia and defending World Cup champions South Africa over the past 18 months.
“I hope that teams are scared of us now,” Galthie told reporters after a 41-28 win against Wales in the Six Nations on Saturday.
“We’re certainly the team to beat. We do have an impressive victory ratio. We’ve only lost once here, against Scotland,” he added.
France ended this year’s Six Nations in second place behind Grand Slam winners Ireland. They lost in Dublin in round 3 before wins over Scotland, England and Wales after sluggishly beating Italy in their opening game.
Galthie has been defeated just three times in the Six Nations since replacing Jacques Brunel after the 2019 World Cup.
“We started the Six Nations in a lacklustre way, we did as well as we could,” Galthie, who turns 54 on Monday, said. “Four victories from five in four Six Nations, we have a success rate of 80% in the Six Nations.
“So it’s very positive, if we have to do a purely factual round-up of things,” he added.
Fullback Thomas Ramos ended the Six Nations as the tournament’s top scorer on 84 points, which comprised three tries, 18 conversions, 10 penalties and a drop goal.
Since Galthie took over, France have beaten TV audience records and sold out stadiums across the country as Les Bleus eye a first Webb Ellis Cup after three lost finals and a quarter-final defeat in 2019.
“It’s better that there’s enthusiasm than the opposite,” Ramos said. “I don’t think it scares us. I think we’re starting to reach a maturity which means we manage to deal with pressure.
“The enthusiasm will help us be better than the previous World Cup, for example,” he added.
France will play Scotland twice, Fiji and Australia in pre-World Cup warm-up matches in August.
“I’ll have a little week of holiday, which will do some good,” Ramos said. “There’s a season to finish, whatever the case with our clubs, you have something to finish.
“The World Cup will arrive quickly, the preparation is at the start of July so it’s like it’s almost tomorrow. The end of the season will feel like 10,000 years,” he added.
© Agence France-Presse