The pain of a one-point loss at a home World Cup will never go away for Fabien Galthié but the France coach believes his side can learn from the experience and get better.
Under Galthié, les Bleus won 80% of their matches from 2020 to 2023, including winning a Grand Slam in 2022.
However, they fell just short in the quarter-finals of the World Cup, beaten 29-28 by South Africa at the Stade de France, as the Springboks went onto retain their title.
After taking some time to reflect on the disappointment, Galthié admitted it will be tough to get over, but he is confident the team has a huge margin for growth ahead of the 2024 Guinness Six Nations.
Galthié said: “It’s an injury and a pain but when you play at this level for France, you have to be prepared to win but also to experience what we did. There is only one team that is not hurting: the one that is world champions.
“Having spoken to the leaders, who I have caught up with over the phone after the tournament, I think this scar will stay with us for life. But that is part of our journey. Having experienced a number of disappointments, it is never a handicap. It becomes experience, knowledge and the possibility of being even better. We will all need to do a kind of personal and collective introspection.”
France will kick off the 2024 Championship in Marseille on 2 February against defending champions Ireland, who suffered a similar disappointment as they fell to eventual finalists New Zealand in the last eight.
Galthié explained that he has already watched back the quarter-final defeat at least ten times, although he had no regrets over the tactical approach employed by his team.
Now attention turns to being ready for that Friday night clash at the Vélodrome, where Emmanuel Meafou, Toulouse’s powerful second row, could be a contender for a debut, having completed his five-year residency.
Speaking of his plans as the clock ticks towards that encounter, Galthié urged as many players as possible to stake a claim for a spot, including the recent France Under-20s side who made it a hat-trick of world titles this summer.
He added: “On Monday I will meet with Jean-Marc Lhermet (FFR vice president and head of high performance) to take stock of the overarching vision of the coming season. In December, we have two training sequences with the Under-20s and Under-20s development teams.
“The first match will be on February 2. We also have a meeting with the league in mid-December. It’s important to work hand-in-hand in the good moments and the more difficult ones.
“People might be surprised by the potential of French rugby. Every player in Pro D2, the Top 14 and Nationale needs to have the ambition to say they can play for the national team. People are talking about Meafou but there are a lot of players with potential. We have worked with a lot of Under-20s.”