There used to be a lazily-used cliche about France claiming “you never knew what French team would turn up” but in the build-up to this year’s Rugby World Cup that remark has been consigned to the past.
Since former captain Fabien Galthie took over as head coach after the tournament in Japan four years ago, one thing has been consistent with hosts Les Bleus: they win.
They have tasted defeat just eight times in 39 fixtures during Galthie’s tenure.
They were unbeaten in 2022, which included a first Six Nations Grand Slam in more than a decade and statement victories over Australia and World Cup holders South Africa.
France, three-time runners-up, might be below Ireland and the Springboks in the world rankings but they have seldom been in such good form before a tilt at the Webb Ellis trophy.
When he was first named boss, Galthie said his aim was to increase the number of caps for a host of players, win games, and then win titles.
Captain and talisman Antoine Dupont is set to make his 50th test appearance against the All Blacks, more than half of those games coming under Galthie.
France’s build-up to a first home World Cup since 2007 has included camps in Monaco, Capbreton in the south-west of the country and in their headquarters to the south of Paris, intertwined with two tests against Scotland before wins over Fiji and the Wallabies
“We put in place, with the players and staff, the best preparation possible,” Galthie said.
“We left nothing to luck. Often the secret to winning is in the detail.
“We’re lucky to be in France, to be able to recover properly, the players have been able to rest up with their families at home.
“It was perfect as other teams travelled, spent time in airports, hotels, far from their families with jetlag.
“It hasn’t been the case for us,” he added.
One cog in the works could be the pressure surrounding the side: France has caught the World Cup buzz.
Trams in Toulouse have been adorned with tournament posters, a giant photo of scrum-half Dupont has appeared near the Louvre museum and tickets for games, including the eagerly anticipated opener with New Zealand, have been sold out for months.
“We’re all thinking about it,” Dupont told reporters on Sunday.
“We’ve all turned our minds to that, we all want to be there.
“Despite the event we have to be conscious of how lucky we are to play games like that, to play in competitions like that with crowds of that size,” he added. − SuperSport.