Fabien Galthie has scrapped the romantic brand of rugby employed by France teams of old, and taken a leaf out of the Springboks and Rassie Erasmus’ playbook, writes MARK KEOHANE.
The Boks are expected to score plenty of tries against minnows Romania in a World Cup Pool B clash in Bordeaux on Sunday, playing with freedom against a team ranked 19th in the world.
Head coach Jacques Nienaber has named a heavily changed match-day 23, even selecting all four scrumhalves in the Bok squad – with Grant Williams on the wing – to face the Romanians.
In his TimesLIVE column, Keohane suggests that a similar approach won’t help the Boks beat top-ranked Ireland next weekend in Saint-Denis, but rather the world champions’ set-piece dominance, defence and territorial kicking.
This tactical blueprint, he argues, is proving more effective for head coach Galthie and Les Bleus than at any stage for the French since the game went professional in 1996.
“France, under Galthie, have a similar mindset to the Springboks under Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber,” Keohane writes. “Both teams put a premium on set-piece control, defence and on kicking for field position and building scoreboard pressure.
“France, with former Springbok Vlok Cilliers as their kicking coach, have been more successful off the kicking tee and more consistent in their line kicking. The Boks have been more imposing and destructive with their set piece, courtesy of their six power-forward replacements, who are as good as the six starters they replace.
“Many bemoaned the lack of tries from France and South Africa [in the opening round of the World Cup] but, for me, it was a different kind of rugby poetry, and one that I have always associated with those teams who have won every World Cup.
“Defence is the most potent attack at World Cups and effective line and goal kicking will bring greater reward than the pursuit of attacking extravagance and long-range tries.”
Photo: Christophe Simon/AFP