Be careful not to miss. The road that leads the XV of France, winner of the 2022 Six Nations Tournament, to the 2023 World Cup begins with a first stage in Rome, Sunday, against Italy, which has promised it “a beautiful trap”.
On the one hand, the French Grand Slams, world No.2 and undefeated for thirteen games; on the other, the eternal last transalpine, who have not beaten the Blues for ten years … On paper, the shock of the Stadio Olimpico does not seem able to cause too much hassle to the men of Fabien Galthié.
But beware! Because the Squadra Azzurra is in clear progress: last season, they won their first match in the Tournament since 2015 by dominating Wales in Cardiff (22-21), a revival then confirmed by a success against Australia ( 28-27) in the fall.
A great architect of this Italian renaissance, the Toulousain Ange Capuozzo knows what to expect, the first XV of France in 2023 with seven of his club teammates, starting with Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack.
“I don’t know what it’s like to face buddies yet because, from memory, I’ve never been confronted with that. They’re really all buddies and that’s what makes this match even more special for me. This adds a little more magic to this match”, confided the young rear with the legs of fire (23 years old, 7 caps).
“I’ve already checked the date for a while. They’re all friends, yes, but I hope we’re going to set a nice trap for them anyway,” he continued with a smile.
– Three trips –
The hunt for the Blues is therefore open. Gone are the days when Italy presented themselves as victims and Antoine Dupont’s teammates were warned. “We saw the matches that the Italians played last year, they improved a lot: it will perhaps be our most important match because we can’t lose it, we mustn’t have to regret the points at the end”, also underlined the second row Paul Willemse.
Same story on the side of Anthony Jelonch. “Everyone calls us favorites but we must not belittle this team which is confident. We know that they will offer us a lot of fight. Even behind: we can now see that they play the ball well so it will be very dangerous , we will have to be careful”, assured the third line of Toulouse.
“Everyone is really focused on this first match, we know very well that it will be a very tough fight and we are ready to take it on,” he explained.
For Blues who have an empire to build before the World Cup in France (September 8-October 28), a great victory, offensive bonus as a bonus, would ideally launch this 24th edition of the Six Nations while preparing for the trip to Dublin , to challenge the XV of Clover, world N.1 and who impressed on Saturday against Wales (34-10).
Because it is a major challenge that awaits the Blues seven months before the World Cup at home: to achieve an impossible double in a year with three trips, to Rome and Dublin then to London.
The icing on the cake, a new clear round would allow them to equal the absolute record of 18 wins in a row, jointly held by the English (October 2015-March 2017) and the New Zealanders (August 2015-November 2016). And to send a message to planet rugby.