What the French newspapers are saying on Tuesday about the Test against the Springboks.
A France XV play a New Zealand XV this evening in Lyon in a non-Test match and while the tourists have chosen to field a team of fringe players for the French it represents something more serious.
The thumping 38-18 defeat to New Zealand extended France’s losing streak to four straight Tests, and there are places up for grabs ahead of Saturday’s clash with the Springboks in Paris.
Fullback Scott Spedding, flyhalf Francois Trinh-Duc and Yoann Maestri will all feel they have a chance to stake a claim, and the South-African born Spedding told reporters on Monday that it’s a chance ‘to prove what we can do and show the selectors they can rely on us’. Furthermore, added Spedding, ‘if we win it will be good for everyone. It will give a little bit of confidence to the team that plays the Springboks on Saturday’.
It’s true that victory tonight for France, even in what Le Figaro newspaper dubs a ‘phantom Test’, would be a much-needed morale boost for the squad before Saturday’s clash. For if the Boks are psychologically battered after the Dublin debacle, then one or two former France stars see a losing mentality taking hold of Les Bleus.
‘We’ve an inferiority complex,’ Dimitri Yachvili told Le Parisien, while Jean-Baptiste Lafond said France ‘are starting to get used to losing’.
In an interview with Eurosport, the former wing also said the strain is clearly getting to coach Guy Noves, who is under severe pressure from FFR president Bernard Laporte to meet his target of three wins from four matches this month.
According to L’Equipe, this is ‘the week of truth’ for French rugby, on and off the field, starting with tonight’s match in Lyon. The worst-case scenario is defeat this evening, defeat tomorrow when the World Cup council announces who will host the 2023 tournament and defeat on Saturday against South Africa.
‘It’s very important for the [coaching] staff that we beat South Africa,’ says L’Equipe. ‘If we don’t then there will be a crisis at the heart of the French squad.’
If it’s any comfort to Guy Noves, Allister Coetzee knows how he feels.
Compiled by Gavin Mortimer in Paris