Yes, this is cause for concern. The deadline of the 2023 World Cup has been the priority goal since the beginning of the mandate and also since we arrived just before the 2019 edition. We know that injury is an inherent factor in professional rugby. When the players are in the club, they chain matches. We also ask a lot of them when they are with us. There will always be injuries. We try to minimize the risks and in particular everything related to muscle injuries thanks to the data that allow us to know the workloads. When players arrive in France, we know exactly what they did before joining us. What is certain is that the French internationals play more than others …
Yes, this is cause for concern. The deadline of the 2023 World Cup has been the priority goal since the beginning of the mandate and also since we arrived just before the 2019 edition. We know that injury is an inherent factor in professional rugby. When the players are in the club, they chain matches. We also ask a lot of them when they are with us. There will always be injuries. We try to minimize the risks and in particular everything related to muscle injuries thanks to the data that allow us to know the workloads. When players arrive in France, we know exactly what they did before joining us. What is certain is that the French internationals play more than others. This is why we have not been bringing premium players to Australia and Japan for two years, so they can regenerate and have a relevant pre-season with their club.
A player like Yoram Moefana has already played more than 600 minutes, Grégory Alldritt 560… Isn’t it alarming one year after the World Cup?
Yes of course. If we compare with Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa. But again, it’s not in our power. The clubs have the intelligence and the benevolence to try to help the XV of France as much as possible by protecting the nationals, I am thinking in particular of Toulouse, but there is the reality of the clubs. They need to win games. And this Top 14 is so homogeneous, so tight that it is also normal for managers to field their best players. For our part, we are doing our best to prevent internationals from getting into trouble, but we also have our imperatives. Last week, we had to bring players up to international standards. We had 23 we didn’t work with since France-England. It requires very specific training, at very specific intensities and heavy workloads in the first ten days.
Is the gap between the Top 14 and the international level that big?
Of course. It’s different. Go faster, hit harder. It is more intense. Actual playing time is more important. Rugby has evolved over the past four years. The sequences are shorter but are much more explosive. There is more speed, changes of pace. The game without the ball has become predominant. On this dimension, for example, when the players arrive from the Top 14, it takes a while to find their automatisms and we harass them from a physiological point of view so that they can find this dimension of speed, explosiveness, maintenance of high intensity during these periods of play without the ball. It’s a cleaver for us. Players must be hyperactive on offense, defensive on this specific playing area without the ball. This means that we need a bit lighter players and that, when we find them, we need to adjust some of their body weight. But with experience, we know how to address what we need. We try to personalize the preparation as much as possible.
You were talking about the good understanding between the clubs and the staff of France on the management of the national teams. Speaking of a player like Antoine Dupont, what do you recommend?
For Antoine, for example, we had chosen not to take him on tour to Japan to allow him to have his knee cleaned. It is a strong sign. We know that Antoine will play a lot this season. You will have to be smart. It is difficult for us not to field Antoine Dupont. We manage our weeks. Matches aren’t necessarily the problem. These are also the training weeks. You have to be relevant in the workload. But Antoine is already very mature athletically. He has great natural qualities. With him we are more in maintenance than in development.
“Romain doesn’t necessarily need to play a Top 14 game to be ready for the international level”
But when Yoram Moefana plays eight games in a row, doesn’t the question arise about the limits to be set?
Again, it depends on the profile of the players or their professionalism. They are very serious, they pay attention to themselves in terms of nutrition or recovery. And above all they know they are in a World Cup year: there are people in every position, we will have to fight to be in the group. Our great advantage is that we have maintained a stable group since 2020: we almost know the players by heart. We are able to identify the intensities and volumes.
“Cyril has just played, the coaches will make a decision based on all factors”
Summoning Romain Ntamack after returning from an ankle injury without having played a single minute in the Top 14, isn’t it taking a physical risk?
Romain doesn’t necessarily need to play a Top 14 game to be ready for the international level. He has already trained very well with the Stade Toulousain to recover from the injury: he arrived ready. We needed to get him back in the saddle in some specific physiological areas, but he is very professional. When asked to “touch” certain things, he does everything. In 10 to 15 days, you can get a Romain Ntamack back on the road. Even knowing that he was able to continue training to maintain his core qualities despite the ankle. It would have been another injury, maybe it would have taken more time.
Cyril Baille has just been summoned after being sidelined for more than three months following an operation on his left adductor. Can he run for Australia after playing only 46 minutes in the Top 14 against Bayonne this weekend?
“Cissou” is also a very particular profile: he is able to alternate movement and combat skills, which is exactly what is required of the left pillars. He is returning from a serious injury but has prepared very well with his club. He has just played at Bayonne, we will be watching him this week and the coaches will make a decision based on all performance factors. I can’t tell you if he will play or not.
When preparing to take on the Springboks, what kind of physiological challenge should you prepare yourself for?
We know they are very strong up front. We have been fighting for four years to be able to “match” in the physical dimension of combat, but also of movement. Obviously it is what happens at the top eight level that will decide who wins. But this is true against all teams, not just South Africa! We are not preparing specifically for the Boks. Before them, there is the first Australia.
Where are you with the physical work done on the first five of the Blues?
During the week we identified gaps in some physical data. Especially on the support races between 21 and 27 km / h: we could not reach what we were doing in the matches when we try to “overload” these thresholds during training. These are not maximum intensities, but they correspond to playing without the ball or going from one ruck to another during the attack phases. Even if our game is not based on possession, we still need to have this panel in case we have to multiply the phases of the game, we have therefore modified our methodology to be more precise in transferring the physiological data within the required game project from the coaches. We worked a lot on this between the Japan tour and today.