France’s Grand Slam success does not just belong to the players or the coaches, according to boss Fabien Galthié, it is a victory that belongs to French rugby as a whole.
After 12 years of waiting for a clean sweep, Les Bleus clinched the Guinness Six Nations title in style by beating England 25-13 at the Stade de France.
Antoine Dupont’s try on the hour was the clincher, after first-half scores from Gaël Fickou and François Cros.
And having come so close in 2020 and 2021, finishing second on each occasion, Galthié was determined to enjoy the moment.
He said: “This Grand Slam is a victory for the 1900 clubs of French rugby. There is of course a lot of joy. When you win, it’s because you made the right choices, you worked hard, that you chose the right players and you are going in the right direction.
“After this win we must be better than 75% of victories, we will be number two in the world in the rankings. We are on the right path. The team against England had an average of 20 caps and an average age of 26. There is no reason why this team cannot progress. Even if we approached the game with as much detachment as possible, we still had to play it, despite the tension.
“We finished our first Championship joint first, second in our second and now the Grand Slam. It’s terrific, there’s no other word. There was a lot of tension around the expectation, the event, what it symbolised. It was marvellously tense.
“We had not experience this sort of tight game, with so much riding on every phase, every decision. It’s an incredible experience that reminds us of the end of the games against the All Blacks, Ireland, in Wales. The intensity was at its maximum.”
A three-time Grand Slam champion as a player, Galthié is now the first person to have won Slams in the Six Nations era as both a player and a head coach.
The team celebrated in the changing rooms, joined by officers from the French foreign legion, who had welcomed them to a training camp before the Championship started.
For Dupont, the captain who provided the match-winning moment, there is no question that this is a very special group of players.
He said: “With this Grand Slam, we follow in the footsteps of players and teams that won a lot and who inspire us. We all have the World Cup in mind, but first of all we are going to make the most of the end of the Championship together.
“Of course we are happy. There are strong emotions that we cannot wait to share. In this team, everyone encourages one another, on the pitch or off it. The mindset allows us to win games, particularly when we get those tense moments each weekend.
“Some players have great careers without lifting trophies. I know I am lucky to be part of a generation that is performing. When you are part of a dynamic like this, you don’t want it to stop.”