France coach has 'five or six' captaincy candidates
SPOTLIGHT: France head Fabien Galthie said on Tuesday he had half a dozen options to replace regular skipper Charles Ollivon, who will miss the November Tests with a serious knee injury.
In addition to flank Anthony Jelonch, who led Les Bleus in this month’s series defeat to Australia, French media have identified hooker Julien Marchand, who leads Toulouse, his club teammate and scrumhalf Antoine Dupont as well as La Rochelle No.8 Gregory Alldritt as contenders.
Ollivon, 28, suffered an anterior cruciate ligament tear in June. The Toulon flanker is expected to return in the New Year.
France face New Zealand, Argentina and Georgia at the end of the year.
“There are five or six players who have the possibility of being captain,” Galthie told AFP.
“I prefer to keep their names quiet, it wouldn’t be fair. But they know we’re talking about them,” he added.
Toulouse-bound Jelonch, 24, took over from Ollivon as Galthie’s men lost to the Wallabies 1-2 in three games over the space of 10 days.
“We had identified the potential to be a captain in him,” Galthie said.
“We guided him and tried to give him the support he needed so that he didn’t waste too much energy in his preparation and he remained himself.
“First, he is a captain who leads by example, you just have to follow him. He is a young player, but he showed the way. He delivered,” the former scrumhalf added.
No longer ‘sleeping giants’
Galthie, who took over after the 2019 Rugby World Cup, has had to name weakened teams twice during his tenure. First because as part of an agreement between the Top 14 and the French Rugby Federation in November and then because of quarantine entry rules in Australia earlier this month.
Les Bleus have lost five of 17 matches under their former captain but they remain without a trophy since their last Six Nations title in 2010.
“The squad’s not closed but we’ve identified all the potential players, we pretty much have them ranked,” he said.
“We are now back among the world’s best.
“In two years, we’ve won in Scotland, Wales, Ireland and Australia. When we lost in England, it was on the last play. We used to be called the ‘sleeping giant’, it’s no longer the case,” he added.
Although the French club season does not start until September 4, Galthie said he would spend the break reviewing the Australia tour and looking at other Test matches.
“When we signed up to this mission, we don’t get a break. Now, it’s time for a debrief,” he said.
“There’s also time to observe, there’s the Lions tour going on, it’s a formidable workshop. Then you have The Rugby Championship.
“Then the season starts, when I hope, despite Covid, to be able to go and meet the players and the coaches at the clubs.
“We don’t really have a holiday. There are quieter times when we are less under time pressure and can focus more on analysis.”