Fabien Galthié has never been one to shy away from a bold statement and his latest is just about as big as they can get – the 2020 Guinness Six Nations will be a successful one for France if they win it.
Former France scrum-half Galthié, who replaced Jacques Brunel as the country’s head coach after the 2019 Rugby World Cup, sent shockwaves through the French rugby sphere by naming 19 uncapped players in his 42-man squad, including 11-time capped Charles Ollivon as captain, for his first Championship in charge.
France fixtures for the 2020 Guinness Six Nations Round 1: France v England, 15:00, Stade de France, Paris, Live on BBC Round 2: France v Italy, 15:00, Stade de France, Paris, Live on BBC Round 3: Wales v France, 16:45, Principality Stadium Cardiff, Live on BBC and S4C Round 4: Scotland v France, 15:00, BT Murrayfield, Edinburgh, Live on BBC Round 5: France v Ireland, 20:00, Stade de France, Paris, Live on BBC
Some thought Galthié’s main intention was clear – laying the platform for a new generation of French talent but his ambition goes way beyond that.
It may be the case that Les Bleus have not tasted success in the Championship since 2010 but Galthié, who was present alongside Ollivon at Tobacco Dock in London for the official launch of the 2020 Guinness Six Nations on Wednesday, believes his new pool of talent have what it takes to return to their former heights – and he knows an opening match against England will prove the perfect test.
“A successful Championship is a Championship that is won,” said Galthié.
“Our vision is two-fold. We have a four year vision building up to the 2023 Rugby World Cup, but also a short-term ambition which starts with the England game on 2 February.
“We need a squad who are able to quickly gear up to perform then but who are also able to raise the bar and standards for our longer term ambition.
“The fact we’re playing England first means we will have to immediately match their very high standards of rugby.
“We have been studying their players and their recent matches so we can raise our level very quickly to face them in Round 1 at the Stade de France.”
One of the major shake-ups to the France XV will be Toulon back-rower Ollivon replacing the retired Guilhem Guirado as skipper.
At one point it seemed the most unlikely of stories, with 26-year-old Ollivon battling off reports of possible retirement by overcoming a succession of shoulder injuries to make the cut for the World Cup squad in Japan before being handed the armband by Galthié for the post-Brunel era.
He may only have 11 caps to his name but Ollivon is well aware of the importance of identity in the France XV – something the captain is determined to help preserve throughout the 2020 Championship.
“I’m happy with my new role but I have to say, it’s not all new,” added Ollivon.
“We have familiar faces with some players from the World Cup squad being at our training camp in Nice, as well as new ones.
“My message to the team is to be true to ourselves. We have to be both humble and ambitious. We have to work very hard with the fixtures we have ahead but I want us to have fun on the pitch as well.”