What the French newspapers are saying on Saturday about the Test against the Springboks.
The front page of L’Equipe leaves readers in no doubt of the magnitude of tonight’s clash: ‘The Hour of Truth’, a headline that’s applicable to both the Springboks and Les Bleus.
French rugby, still on a high after Wednesday’s 2023 World Cup vote, could come crashing down to earth this evening if they lose to South Africa. It would be their fifth straight defeat, their worst run for 35 years, and heads would undoubtedly roll.
L’Independant, a newspaper serving the Catalan region of southern France, fears for the future of Guilhem Guirado should France lose. A local boy, the French captain had a poor game against the All Blacks last week, and L’Independant says Guirado needs to draw on his proud Catalan character to bounce back against South Africa.
Also under pressure, says the national tabloid, Aujourd’hui En France, is the France coach, with the paper’s headline ‘Noves: on the brink of chaos’ articulating their view.
Since taking over from Philippe Saint-Andre after the 2015 World Cup, Noves now has the worst record of any France coach in the professional era, with 12 defeats from 19 matches (a 37% win ratio compared to Allister Coetzee’s 41%). Victory tonight – and, the paper assumes, a win over Japan next Saturday – ‘will give Noves several months of respite’.
Former France captain and Toulon coach Fabien Galthie predicts that tonight’s Test will be a tight affair, telling L’Equipe: ‘I don’t believe France are capable of dominating the Springboks the way Ireland did last week.’
Galthie believes the inclusion of Duane Vermeulen could prove key to South Africa’s chances, not only because of the physicality he will bring, but also because of his intelligence with ball in hand. This is something, says Galthie, lacking in the French pack, who he believes lack the dynamism and savoir-faire of the Boks forwards.
Le Figaro notes that worryingly for the FFR, just three days after their successful bid for the 2023 World Cup, only 55,000 fans are expected tonight in the Stade de France. Last week’s clash with the All Blacks was an 80,000 sell-out, but the prospect of watching two struggling teams has clearly not captured the imagination of the French public.
Finally, L’Equipe goes back in time to November 1997 when the Parc des Princes hosted its final France international before moving to the Stade de France. The opponents? South Africa, and they thrashed France 52-10. What chance a similar result this evening?
Compiled by Gavin Mortimer in Paris