Biasotto steeled for U20 World Cup by tough year

Despite some disappointing results, Les Bleuets view this year's U20 Six Nations as an essential preparation for their global ambitions.

There are 106 days between the two biggest U20 tournaments, with three months and fourteen days separating their final match of the U20 Men's Six Nations against England on 15th May and the opening of their World Rugby U20 Championship campaign against Spain on 29th June.

A period during which the players and coaches have continued to make progress between club matches and meetings with the national team. “It's not so difficult to keep up with the U20s because it's a completely different team, a completely different project,” explains Brive centre Maxence Biasotto (pictured above) the day after their play-off defeat to Béziers, which brought an abrupt end to a ProD2 season that had looked so promising.

But Biasotto is in luck. The 2023 U20 world champion will be able to extend his season with the upcoming global tournament, which this year takes place in South Africa. “It's quite a change from the club and it's an adventure you really want to experience when you're young. It's easy to make the switch, to say to yourself that the season isn't over and that you have to move on to the U20s. We still have games to play. It's better than not having any,” he admits.

Biasotto will be celebrating his 20th birthday on 8th July, right in the middle of the competition, and on the eve of Pool A's third and final match against Wales.


As they prepare to take on the Welsh, everyone will be thinking back to Les Bleuets' crushing 45-12 victory in Cardiff back in March. It was one of the few bright spots in a campaign that saw the three-time world champions suffer three defeats in five matches.

“Even though the results were difficult, we're not really worried about the future because we know we have a very good team with very good players. We're not worried about the future, even if the results were difficult,” says the Briviste.

“It helped us get back on our feet and forget that the World Cup was last year,” adds Sébastien Calvet, coach of the French U20 team.

The difficulty this year - perhaps more so than in previous editions - is that France have rarely played with the 'backbone' of their team. Their only real opportunity came against England, when they lost 31-45 at the Stade du Hameau in Pau.

“During the Championship there was a lot of rotation, with over 50 players playing, and it's true that had an impact. We don't always have the same automatic connection. It's true that it was complicated this year,” agrees Biasotto, who was released by his club whenever the French staff needed him.

“Despite the results in the Championship, this team has gone from strength to strength, but we've never been able to field the best of the team with the collective experience we need to be fit when it matters most,” notes Calvet.


To explain why the U20 ranks have been so depleted in favour of the French national team and clubs, we need to go back a few years to when France began its cycle of world domination at youth level.

In 2018, the date of the first triumph, David Darricarrère, a future coach at Briv, was part of the staff of Sébastien Piqueronies (now coaching at Pau). The group included Demba Bamba, Jean-Baptiste Gros, Cameron Woki and Romain Ntamack, all of whom are now part of the senior national team. Key players in the Top 14 such as Louis Carbonel and Matthis Lebel, to name but two, were also among them.

The same thing happened the following year, before Covid cancelled the next two editions. And in 2023, Posolo Tuilagi, Esteban Capilla, Mathis Castro-Frreira, Lenni Nouchi, Baptiste Jauneau, Hugo Reus, Paul Costes, Nicolas Depoortère, Mathis Ferté... In short, more diamonds.

“The U20s are victims of the success of the French pathway, but we're happy to be victims,” says Calvet, who makes no secret of the difficulty of fielding his best players for major events such as the 2024 U20 Six Nations.

“This generation of players, born in 2005, didn't feel settled at the start of the tournament. It always takes time for them to realise that the France U20 team belongs to them just as much as it does to the generation born in 2004.

“We felt that against Wales, the generation really came into their own - that this team was theirs. We then called on the backbone for the final, but they had very little experience. We had just spent four days preparing for a game against one of the favourites for this year's World Cup, England. It was a full game, with a quality that's typical of this type of encounter. It was a useful game.”


Four players from Brive were part of this squad to prepare for the tournament's finale, making them the biggest contingent alongside Stade Toulousain. With Geoffrey Malaterre (2005 generation), Léo Carbonneau and Mathis Ferté (both 2023 World Champions) - U20 players who have quickly become key players for their club this season - Maxence Biasotto was on familiar territory.

“It is the success of the club's structure,” he says. “The youngsters who come through the rugby academy are very well looked after and work very hard. That's why so many Brive players make it through to the U20s.

“I wouldn't say we're a group apart; we get on very well with everyone. But it's true that we have a really close relationship because we're used to going away together. We're together all the time.”

While time flies in the age group and one generation quickly replaces the next, they go back to the drawing board each year and must make the most of every moment together to grow and try to retain the crown of world champions.

“As the coaches keep saying, this year is a new project and we're not talking about last year; this year is going to be completely different. We don't want to compare this year with last year,” the player insists. “It is still a great status to have. But especially in the run-up to another World Cup, we need to avoid thinking about that status again and start from scratch.”


With England the favourites from the North and New Zealand, the inaugural U20 world champions, the favourites in the South, Les Bleuets know they are starting from a different place this year.

“We've lost some collective experience, but we're still working on a strong project,” says Sébastien Calvet. “On the other hand, we're fully aware that the Rugby Championship has prepared Australia, New Zealand, Argentina and South Africa well and that they will be much better prepared and more experienced. We know that this second match against the Baby Blacks will be in a completely different league to last season.”

Biasotto is also looking forward to the second match of the World Cup on 4th July. “We know it's going to be more complicated than last year because the New Zealanders didn't have a championship, they had fewer games than us, so they had less preparation. We know this year is going to be very different. It won't be the same story,” he allows.


At the beginning of May, an U20s group travelled to Georgia for a pre-season camp. “The theme of the week was to work on contact because Georgia are a very strong team and we wanted to work on that. It's going to help me at the World Cup,” says Biasotto.

“For us, it's a relatively valuable camp because the Georgians force you to be good at the basics, especially at winning and being effective in contact,” confirms Calvet.

The next camp takes place on 17th June at the Centre National du Rugby (CNR) in Marcoussis, where two training sessions with the XV de France are scheduled.

“Compared to last year, we did the same thing: two one-week camps. It could be good, especially with the French team, which is one of the best in the world. It's always a privilege to train with them and learn from their experience as we prepare for our World Cup. It's a really positive thing for the group,” says Biasotto, who is “very excited” with just a month to go until the start of the campaign in South Africa.

He knows that whether or not they win the World Cup, this double generation - born in 2004 and 2005 - will be closely watched by clubs and the French national team alike.

“For me, the XV de France is in the back of my mind because that's the best thing that can happen at a high level. But there are still a lot of stages to go and at the moment I'm trying to concentrate on the U20s and the club, which is very important,” insists the Briviste.

He and his teammates will embark on the final stretch of the season after a week's rest while others go on holiday. With the help of a dedicated physical trainer, the Brive cohort will gradually build up their strength, proud of the opportunity to defend their status.