French boss defends camp in COVID hotspot
REACTION: French Rugby Federation (FFR) vice-president Serge Simon said that the choice to hold a Six Nations camp in a part of the country with one of the highest rates of coronavirus cases was justified.
Fabien Galthie’s Bleus are in Nice, as opposed to their headquarters in Marcoussis near Paris, as they prepare for the tournament opener at Italy on February 6.
Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur trailed only the Ile-de-France, the greater Paris region, in daily positive tests last Thursday, according to French government statistics.
“If we come here it’s because we’re looking for value-added for the squad, in their management, with the sunlight, energy and not spending eight weeks in Marcoussis. It’s about breaking routine,” Simon told AFP.
“Be it here or Marcoussis, the bubble is as efficient as possible. The difference is that we had to create it here,” he added.
The competition is set to go ahead as scheduled despite French Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu asking for further protocol “guarantees” due to a coronavirus strain in Britain.
Galthie’s fellow coaches, players and administrative staff were tested before arrival, and will undergo two further exams this week.
Squad members will be tested once more before an away game as the protocol has been strengthened since the end-of-year campaign last November.
“Zero risk doesn’t exist,” Simon said.
“The bubble has been built in Nice with a hotel where it’s just us, transport where there’s just us, facilities where there’s just us,” he added.
The 37-man squad, which will be added with five training partners, will stay together until late into a week before a game.
Players omitted from the weekend’s match preparations will be released back to their domestic sides as part of a deal between the FFR and the clubs.
France’s performance director Thibault Giroud said it could cause a problem.
“The only tricky thing is when the 14 boys go back to their clubs and then come back on a Monday because they have to do testing,” Giroud told last week’s Le French Rugby podcast.
“Every other nation, they keep their players for the whole period pretty much. For us it’s tough because they’re going back home and are outside the bubble and then they come back in.”