France’s Under 18 were recently crowned European champions with a convincing 57-0 victory over Georgia in Toulouse. Head coach Thierry Gatieneau’s young side impressively saw off defending champions England 23-18 in the semi-final, before claiming the title.
While the national side has been a shadow of its former self at the highest level, the junior teams have performed admirably and have become a cause for optimism for a federation that is desperate for success of any kind.
Interestingly, the European victory comes 10 years after France claimed its last major youth title. In 2006, the Under 21s beat South Africa, again on French soil in Clermont Ferrand.
That winning side contained no less than 11 future French internationalists, including Lionel Beauxis, Sebastien Tillous-Borde, Maxime Medard, Damien Chouly and Thomas Domingo.
The final standings of each division in the 2015 European Championships
It’s too early to gauge how many of this championship winning team will be running out to a packed Stade de France, but the French federation (FFR) speaks of a unique generation of players.
“This generation definitely has something special. After defeat to Italy at the start of the season, the title seemed a long way away.
“You have to believe that the work pays off because, thanks to a great collective effort and some individualism, we dominated the Georgians and conceded only one try in two matches.”
World Rugby produced an insightful video following the French team as they prepared for their final match with Georgia in Toulouse. The video features interviews with Galieneau and Captain Alexandre Roumat as well as a short highlights reel of the final.
Galieneau also gained recognition for his touchline excitement during the match in this separate video. He demonstrates a passion and character which is seldom seen in most modern day rugby coaches.