France’s head coach, Fabien Galthie, recently shared that he received supportive messages from legendary coaches Graham Henry and Clive Woodward following Les Bleus’ heartbreaking elimination from the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals.
The French team, considered favourites after their 2022 Guinness Six Nations Grand Slam victory, suffered a narrow defeat to eventual champions South Africa.
Galthie, experiencing his first World Cup as head coach, found solace in the encouraging words from two iconic figures who faced similar disappointments in their coaching careers. Both Henry and Woodward, in their initial stints with New Zealand and England, were eliminated in the quarter-finals of the 2007 and 1999 World Cups, respectively. However, they rebounded to secure the Webb Ellis Cup in 2011 and 2003, a path Galthie now hopes to emulate with France in 2027.
In an interview with Midi Olympique, Galthie revealed the essence of the messages he received. While keeping the details private, he acknowledged that the experienced coaches provided valuable insights and advice. Galthie emphasised the shared sentiment that time would bring clarity to the aftermath of a disappointing campaign.
Reflecting on the messages, Galthie expressed, “These two have touched the Holy Grail, but they are not French. When I was hot the day after losing to South Africa, I didn’t feel anything. But over time, I came back to it. Time took its toll, and I understood what they felt and what they wanted to share. They passed through territories that we have been using for the past month. It’s interesting to hear what they have to share.”
Looking forward, Galthie acknowledged the need for strategic decisions regarding France’s approach to upcoming summer tours. The coach contemplated whether to revert to a team that focuses on a limited number of premium matches or maintain a developmental squad for summer tours.
“We’re going to take it step by step. How are we going to work? Do I go back to a team of France that plays only eight so-called ‘premium’ matches where we play only November, February and March without playing the tours outside, with a team of France ‘development’ for the summer tours?” The coach said.
With the rugby calendar set to change in two years, Galthie emphasised the importance of discussions with key stakeholders to determine the best path forward.
“The calendar is going to change in two years, how are we going to play? These are discussions that we are going to have with Jean-Marc (Lhermet), with the League… I decided to protect the players, to select the best players for only eight games.
“The other nations have them play at least 12 Tests. Our best players therefore play fewer major international matches than the others, a third less. Do we continue like this? It’s going to be an interesting discussion. But when you’re playing at the international level, you first have to accept that you’re going into the unknown.” He concluded.