Jacques Brunel turned 65 on Monday, but the France head coach is unlikely to have received a more generous gift than the ‘Coach of the Year’ award given to him earlier this month at the Rencontres Toussuire Sports.
France after all won only three Tests last year (including against England in the Six Nations), rounding off a fairly painful 2018 with a first-ever defeat to Fiji. Turns out the national side’s malaise cannot solely be pinned on ousted former coach Guy Noves.
Brunel’s 31-man squad includes five uncapped players all with their own interesting subplots: Paul Willemse, Romain Ntamack, Thomas Ramos, Dorian Aldegheri and Gregory Alldritt.
There are key injuries in the tight five – Camille Chat, Rabah Slimani, Cedate Gomes Sa and Yoann Maestri – while wing Teddy Thomas is also unavailable.
Of the new faces, Willemse, Pretoria-born and weighing in at 6ft 7in and 135kg, was destined to play for the Bulls and then surely South Africa.
Hopes of French success in 2019 off the back of that Fijian nightmare are understandably low, but there was at least a ripple of excitement last week with Brunel’s squad announcement for the upcoming Six Nations
Instead, after four and a half years in France first with Grenoble and then primarily at Montpellier, the hulking lock will play for his adopted country. Continue reading “France head into Six Nations requiring talented young backs to find their feet and a new commander at lock”