'He is not a great man manager': Honeymoon over for Galthie
SPOTLIGHT: France head coach Fabien Galthie has enjoyed a long honeymoon but for the first time since he took over after the 2019 World Cup, there are rumblings about his stewardship following the 17-38 thumping by Ireland in the Six Nations.
The second heaviest home defeat the French have suffered in the northern hemisphere rugby championships history – England’s 13-39 dismantling of the French in Paris in 1914 remains the record – leaves Galthie with much to do to restore their morale against Scotland in Edinburgh this weekend.
How Galthie must wish he could call on Antoine Dupont, who is chasing Olympic sevens gold, as his side missed their talisman much more than the Irish did their retired icon Johnny Sexton.
Galthie could also point to the hosts playing most of the contest with 14 men – lock Paul Willemse sin-binned for 10 minutes and then red-carded for a second binnable offence – but that cut little ice with former France coach Philippe Saint-Andre.
“One can talk about Willemse’s red card but, the thing that surprised me the most was the difference in the speed of movement,” Saint-Andre told sports daily L’Equipe.
“The Irish did everything at 10,000 kilometres an hour. They tackled and got back on their feet quicker than we did.”
For Mourad Boudjellal, the former owner of Toulon, it is a question of Galthie’s character, which he knows something about having employed the former France captain as head coach for a season.
“He is a great technician but he is not a great man manager,” the always frank Boudjellal told Sud Ouest newspaper.
“Now that those coaches who Bernard Laporte brought in to counter-balance the weaknesses in Galthie’s character and could say ‘no’ to him have gone, I fear we will end up with the Galthie we knew at Toulon.
“That is to say a man who, generally speaking, puts people’s backs up in the dressing room very quickly.
“The Galthie who never took the blame for mistakes.”
‘Slap in the face’
Galthie and the players insist they are over the shattering 29-28 defeat by eventual champions South Africa in the World Cup quarterfinal in October.
However, for Saint-Andre – who endured a disappointing four years at the helm (2011-15) bowing out after a record 62-13 whipping by New Zealand in the 2015 World Cup quarterfinals – there is still work to do on that score for Galthie.
“I had the impression at the World Cup we were on the same level as other teams when we did not have the ball,” he said.
“Three months later it is no longer the case.
“Is it down to physical reasons? Or is it a mix of mental and physical reasons?
“This difference jumped out at me on Friday. There were cases when the Irish kicked that some players were walking not running and had trouble getting back.”
Whilst some urge radical changes to the team, Galthie is unlikely to do so for the game with Scotland, who got their campaign underway with a nervy 27-26 win over Wales.
“We have confidence in our players and to have a clear out would be a mistake,” said William Servat, one of Galthie’s assistant coaches.
“For the players to be confident, they have to feel we are confident in them.
“Thus do not expect huge changes.”
For both Galthie’s former France teammate Richard Dourthe and former French lock Pascal Pape, any changes should see fresh young talent blooded.
“I think it is the right time to throw in some young players,” tweeted Pape, who contrary to some urged patience.
Dourthe – who is as combative a pundit as he was a player – said much hangs on the outcome of the Scots match which, if it results in a French defeat, would be the first time they have lost three successive Tests since Galthie took over after the 2019 World Cup.
“Simply put, if what happened in Marseille [the Irish match] was not a one-off and if the slap in the face France received does not spark a reaction in Scotland, then the whole strategy, even the system, must be revised for the next four years,” he told Midi Olympique.